BOZEMAN — Something was askew early in the first quarter Saturday when Montana State coordinators Brian Armstrong and Ty Gregorak were seen running hurriedly toward the Bobcats’ sideline during Montana’s opening drive.
That fact was confirmed when Griz defensive play-caller Jason Semore — who typically spends game day upstairs in the booth — was spotted scrambling on UM’s sideline at the same juncture.
The issue? Montana State’s headphones weren’t working, which, by rule, forced the Grizzlies to abandon their headsets to level the playing field.
Communications weren’t restored, Griz coach Bob Stitt said, for two offensive possessions. Stitt thought the snafu put Montana at a disadvantage, although he seemed unaware that MSU’s coaches had to relocate to the sideline just as Semore had done.
“All of the sudden (the officials) come over and tell us we’ve got to take our headsets off, and our play-callers are in the box,” Stitt said. “I don’t know what that’s all about. You take it for what it is. It’s not right.
“It’s a silly rule. It’s nuts that they can have their whole coaching staff on the sideline and call the plays, and then all of the sudden we have to take our headphones off? It’s ridiculous.”
Bobcats coach Jeff Choate said it wasn’t the first time his coaching staff experienced technical problems with its headsets this season.
“That’s kind of been an ongoing saga for us. I don’t know what happened. I think there was a cord that got pulled out in pregame somehow,” Choate said. “They test them ad nauseam before the game. As soon as we put them on there was nothing. A bunch of feedback. So we didn’t have them for the first three series.
“We had the coordinators upstairs and had to scramble to get them down. I did a terrible job of calling the first series because we gave up three points. We were able to overcome that just like we were able to overcome a lot of adversity through the course of this season and throughout the course of this game.”
No doubting Thomas
One of the heroes for the Bobcats was true freshman cornerback Tyrel Thomas, who had a game-high three pass breakups, including the game-ender against wideout Keenan Curran with four seconds left.
It was a rousing return to the lineup for the product of St. John Bosco High School in suburban Los Angeles. Thomas was suspended for last week’s game at Northern Arizona — a 37-36 loss in which Lumberjacks quarterback Case Cookus carved up MSU’s secondary — for a violation of team rules.
“Obviously you can see how important he is to the scheme,” Choate said of Thomas, who knocked away a potential touchdown pass in the second quarter. “It would have been nice to have him in Flagstaff a week ago, but youngsters make mistakes and they’ve got to learn. He stepped up and did some nice things today. It was great having Jalen back in the second half as well.”
For his game-sealing breakup of Gresch Jensen’s throw to Curran at the end of the game, MSU linebacker Mac Bignell, who called the win “a dream come true,” said Thomas will go down in history.
“Whenever you make a play like that to win the game you’ll be remembered forever. I don’t know if he knows that, but it was just an incredible performance by him,” Bignell said. “I know he had a couple other plays earlier in the game, but to make that play to win the game, he’ll be remembered forever just because it’s the Cat-Griz game and that’s what it does for you.”
Jensen impresses in first Brawl
Montana quarterback Gresch Jensen completed 30 of 49 passes for 326 yards — his best outing since Weber State — in his first Treasure State showdown.
Stitt was pleased with the efforts of his signal-calling redshirt freshman.
“It’s a big game and you’ve got a freshman quarterback in a drop-back passing, play-action offense, there’s a lot on his shoulders," Stitt said of Jensen. "I thought he handled things pretty darn well.
"We had some opportunities and some third downs that we felt like we could have got if a few things happened here or there. Some of the stuff is outside of our control on third downs, and it’s pretty obvious.
"Makes it tough when they take you out of drives. I thought Gresch played pretty well. It was a good performance by a freshman.”
The Bobcats lost a second player to targeting in as many weeks when sophomore Ben Folsom was disqualified for hitting Griz kickoff returner Jerry Louie-McGee with a helmet-to-helmet hit in the second quarter.
MSU had to play most of the second half of last week's game without cornerback Jalen Cole, who was ejected on a similar play at NAU.
The Bobcats had three players disqualified this season for targeting.