After putting up close to 700 yards of total offense and 59 points last week, the Idaho State football team was shutout in the second half of its 28-14 loss to Montana State Saturday afternoon in Bozeman.
Idaho State (4-4, 2-4 BSC) was stopped on fourth down three times on the afternoon, all of which were within field goal range, but without a healthy kicker, Idaho State was forced to go for it each time and was held to a season-low in points during Big Sky play.
“It affected it,” said head coach Rob Phenicie in a postgame radio interview. “We left nine points out on the field. That’s the second time in three weeks that a kicker has done that to us and we are going to go back to Pocatello and examine our situation at that position.”
Down a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, quarterback Tanner Gueller, who finished the afternoon with 193 passing yards, threw his first of two fourth quarter interceptions, which was returned for a Bobcat touchdown by Montana State linebacker Mac Bignell. The interception was Gueller’s first in 165 throws and put Idaho State in its second 14-point hole of the game.
Moments later, Bignell deflected another pass which landed in the hands of Bryson McCabe and the Bobcats ran the remainder of the clock out to nab their fourth win of the season.
Montana State (4-4, 4-2 BSC) built its first 14-point lead by going 79 yards in 10 plays on its first drive of the game. Bobcat quarterback Chris Murray found Mitch Herbert for a one-yard score and Idaho State responded by driving into Montana State territory, but turned the ball over on downs at the MSU 25-yard line.
The Bengals took their second drive of the game back into Bobcat territory, but saw that drive conclude when Idaho State failed to pick up a fourth-and-two at the Montana State 29 when Ty Flanagan was stuffed on a run up the middle.
Two plays later, Montana State was back in the end zone as Murray found Troy Andersen for a 43-yard touchdown after picking up 28 yards with his feet on the previous play.
In addition to his 231 passing yards, Murray was the Bobcats second leading rusher, collecting 70 yards on 14 rushes with a touchdown.
“Kid did a good job running,” Phenicie said. “He was accurate when he needed to be. He did a great job.”
Down 14, Idaho State went to the ground game and grinded out a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with a Michael Dean 23-yard touchdown reception. Idaho State threw the ball on the first and last play of the scoring drive and went to the ground 10 times during a drive that almost lasted five minutes.
The Bengals tied the game on their next drive, going 96 yards in 11 plays, ending with a James Madison four-yard touchdown run.
On the two touchdown drives, Idaho State ran the ball 20 times and collected 113 of its 182 total yards in the second frame on the ground.
“That was fun watching us take control like that,” Phenicie said.
The one-two power combo of Madison and Ty Flanagan combined for 46 carries and 188 yards on the afternoon.
In the second half, the Idaho State offense picked up where it left off, going 67 yards in 15 plays and taking up over six minutes of the clock before turning the ball over on downs for the third time of the game inside the Bobcat five-yard line.
“That’s all we could do,” Phenicie said. “We were told right before the game that there was something wrong.”
Montana State retook the lead midway through the third when Murray creatively got the football to Nick LaSane, who stumbled his way down the sideline for 77 yards. The play was officially recorded as a pass and the Bobcats were in the end zone on the next play as Murray lunged forward for a two-yard touchdown run.
Early in the fourth, Montana State looked as if they were going to put a choke hold on the game by driving into the red zone, but the drive came to an abrupt halt when the Bengals’ front line provided a heavy pass rush on Murray, forcing him to throw the ball into coverage to a waiting Adkin Aguirre.
But after putting together its longest drive of the afternoon, the Idaho State offense went stagnant and was unable to move the ball for more than 17 yards on any one of its remaining four drives.
“They do a good job,” Phenicie said. “They are very sound. They don’t try to do a lot of stuff, they stay within their system it comes down to executing.”