Montana State has rarely come out on top in its rivalry against Montana. Now the Bobcats are atop the Big Sky Conference with co-champion Eastern Washington.
Denarius McGhee threw two first-quarter touchdown passes Saturday and Montana State held on to beat Montana 21-16 in Missoula.
With the win, the Bobcats earned an automatic berth in the FCS playoffs. Montana will find out today if it receives an at-large playoff berth.
“There is a sense of relief because we’ve been building for this,” Montana State coach Rob Ash said. “We’ve done it the right way bringing in the right kind of players. But in order to have a rivalry, both teams have to win once in a while.”
MSU had won only three of the past 24 meetings. But the Bobcats prevailed thanks to the play of McGhee, a strong running game and an opportunistic defense that forced four second-half turnovers.
The Grizzlies fumbled the ball away twice inside the MSU 5-yard line.
“Obviously this is very disappointing,” Montana coach Robin Pflugrad said. “We were down there and had our chances to score. … Even if we had come away with one more touchdown, it would have been a whole lot different.”
Montana was also stopped on downs with 1:23 left and threw an interception on the final play.
“Football is a game of ball security and turnovers,” Ash said. “There’s no question those were huge, huge plays, especially in the red zone.”
McGhee threw scoring passes of 16 yards to Tanner Bleskin and 9 yards to C.J. Palmer on Montana State’s first two possessions.
Montana answered each time, getting a 59-yard TD run by Chase Reynolds on its first play and a 6-yard run by Justin Roper to tie the game at 14 in a high-scoring first quarter.
Orenzo Davis gave the Bobcats the lead for good, scoring on a 17-yard run with 9:18 to play in the second quarter.
“We knew it was going to go up and down,” Ash said. “We knew we had to be prepared for different swings in emotions.”
Northern Arizona 62, Portland State 14: Michael Herrick threw four TD passes – two to Daiveun Curry-Chapman – and the Lumberjacks closed out their season with a win in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Texas Tech 64, Weber State 21: Taylor Potts threw for three TDs and ran for another – all in the first half – to lead the Red Raiders (6-5) over the Wildcats in Lubbock, Texas.
UC Davis 17, Sacramento State 16: Randy Wright threw two TD passes to Anthony Soto and Sean Kelley had a late field goal as the Aggies (6-5) beat the Hornets in Davis, Calif.