BOZEMAN — Two days following a Week 1 loss at FBS Texas Tech, Montana State coach Jeff Choate commented on the breadth — or lack thereof — of the Bobcats’ offensive game plan.
“We did not show a whole lot in that game, and why would we?” he said Monday as his team began preparations for its Gold Rush showdown with 12th-ranked Southeast Missouri.
It became even more obvious early in the 13th-ranked Bobcats’ 38-17 victory over the Redhawks, as Troy Andersen, taking a snap at quarterback, bolted for a 38-yard touchdown run to give MSU the early lead on its second play from scrimmage.
By the time Montana State’s ensuing series was over, Andersen, starting quarterback Casey Bauman and receiver Travis Jonsen, who didn’t play last week, had all taken snaps in the backfield. By the time halftime came around, Andersen, Jonsen, running backs Isaiah Ifanse and Logan Jones, and receiver Willie Patterson had all rushed the ball at least once.
The Bobcats — who had nine different players touch the football in some capacity on offense, which produced 456 total yards (and no turnovers) — kept it vanilla against Texas Tech for a reason. And Choate said things are still developing.
“I think we’re still kind of finding out how it’s all going to come together,” Choate said. “Certainly we know what Troy is capable of doing, but when you throw Isaiah and (freshman running back) DeMareus Hosey and Logan Jones, and then you’ve got Kevin (Kassis) on the outside and Travis on the outside, I think it’s all going to continue to evolve.”
MSU’s offense did what it could to subvert Southeast Missouri star linebacker Zach Hall. Hall finished with 10 tackles, nine fewer than he had last week in a win over Southern Illinois.
Hall is the reigning Buck Buchanan Award winner as the top defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Front 7 heaven
Southeast Missouri quarterback Daniel Santacaterina is a veteran leader who is perhaps at his best when plays breaks down. Santacaterina was as advertised early in the game, extending plays with this feet to find receivers down the field.
But Montana State’s defensive front made life tough on the senior signal caller by collecting six sacks and hitting him many times over. Santacaterina finished with 13 completions for just 114 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Defensive end Bryce Sterk led the pressure party with three sacks. Andersen, Marcus Ferriter and Kyle Rygg had the others. MSU’s defense totaled 10 tackles for loss.
“We know our front seven is solid,” Sterk said. “It’s going to be an outstanding front seven this season. Knowing we can rely on each other and make plays when we need to make plays is huge.”
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Santacaterina was taken out of the game in the fourth quarter.
Sterk tied for the lead in the Big Sky Conference with 8.5 sacks last year, and he’s already nearly doubled it through two games in 2019.
“I think I got a little bit more flexible in my lower half,” Sterk explained. “My hands are a little bit better. I’m able to dip and rip underneath tackles. I think a lot of offseason training, stuff like that, and watching film has helped.”
Andersen, officially an outside linebacker in his junior season but still with an important role on offense, had a big night on both sides of the ball but most notably rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries.
He had runs of 38 and 44 yards.
It was Andersen’s 11th career 100-yard rushing game, which ties him for fifth in school history with Delmar Jones (1976-78). He now has 28 career rushing touchdowns, which is fourth all-time, one behind Chad Newell (2013-16) and Don Hass (1965-67).
Andersen’s career rushing total is up to 2,029 yards, making him the 12th MSU player to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark.
In the ranks
At No. 12, Southeast Missouri is the highest-ranked team the Bobcats have beaten under Jeff Choate. North Dakota, which was ranked No. 17 when Choate and MSU prevailed 49-21 in a game in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on Sept. 23, 2017, previously held that distinction.
The last time Montana State defeated a team ranked higher than No. 12 was in a 2012 home playoff game against 11th-ranked Stony Brook, which the Bobcats won 16-10.
MSU is now 11-1 in Gold Rush games since the tradition began in 2007. Its lone loss came in 2017, a 31-27 defeat to No. 4 South Dakota State.