The Texas State football season ended Saturday afternoon as the Bobcats lost a ten-point lead in the middle of the game while Montana scored three straight touchdowns on its way to a 31-13 win in the first round of the NCAA football playoffs.
The Bobcats ended their season 8-5 overall after unexpectedly winning their first outright Southland Conference championship. Montana, which has won or shared 11 straight Big Sky titles and made 16 straight playoff appearances, advances with a 12-1 record.
While Montana endeavors to advance past the NCAA quarterfinals next weekend, Texas State will go back to work trying to build a football program that can win admission to the bowl level. Enhancements to the west side of Bobcat Stadium should begin within weeks, while the football players and coaches will enter their offseason mode of recruitment and workouts.
“We are building a football team,” Texas State coach Brad Wright said after the game on KTSW-FM (88.9). “I told our guys to remember this feeling. (This season is) going to mean something if we can build on it. If we can take it through the offseason and build on it, it will mean something. It can’t be a one-year deal.”
Montana dominated with a punishing ground attack led by running back Chase Reynolds, who ended the game with 233 rushing yards in 38 attempts. The Grizzlies also contained the Texas State offense, which entered the game ranked fifth nationally with 460.25 yards per game. The Bobcats totaled almost 100 yards fewer, 369 yards, as they registered their lowest scoring output of the season.
Early in Saturday’s game from Missoula, MT, Texas State appeared to be piecing together the elements of an upset against Montana, seeded fourth in the 16-team playoff bracket.
From the opening kickoff, Texas State held the ball for 12 plays before Andrew Ireland hit a 47-yard field goal to make it 3-0 with 4:09 elapsed.
Later in the first quarter, Texas State cornerback Morris Crosby intercepted Montana quarterback Cole Bergquist at the Texas State 34 and made an eight-yard return. Immediately, Texas State quarterback Bradley George completed a 28-yard pass to wide receiver Mishak Rivas, putting the ball on the Montana 30. After a personal foul penalty against Montana moved the ball up to the 16, George hooked up with Cameron Luke for a 16-yard touchdown pass, giving the Bobcats a 10-0 lead with 4:33 left in the first quarter.
Though the Bobcats couldn’t sustain a drive for the rest of the first half, their defense kept them ahead until intermission. A stop in the red zone defense early in the second quarter appeared to be critical. With Montana facing third-and-three from the Texas State seven, Bobcats defensive tackle Ray Parker and safety Jamal Williams stopped Reynolds for a two-yard gain. The Grizzlies tried their luck on fourth-and-one, whereupon Bergquist dropped the center snap and the Bobcats took over from their own five with 10:02 left in the half.
However, the Grizzlies showed signs of wearing down the Texas State defense late in the first half. Starting from their own 11 with 4:05 before intermission, the Grizzlies worked down field almost without contest. Reynolds started the drive with carries of 11 and 12 yards, then Bergquist completed consecutive passes to Steve Pfahler for 15 and 21 yards as they advanced to the Texas State 28. Five plays later, Bergquist completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Marc Mariani, bringing the Grizzlies within 10-7 with 16 seconds left in the half.
At that point, the Grizzlies were merely back in the game. Within ten minutes after halftime, they had taken over.
From the second half kickoff, Montana moved 71 yards in six plays with Bergquist running 21 yards for the touchdown to give his team a 14-10 lead. Texas State couldn’t manage a first down on its next possession, so the Grizzlies took over at their own 48 after a punt and covered the 52 yards in eight plays, capped by Reynolds’ four-yard touchdown run to make it 21-10.
On its next possession, Texas State made a bid to climb back into the game when George completed a 48-yard pass to Daren Dillard, setting up first down at the Montana six. But the Bobcats settled for Ireland’s 25-yard field goal to come within 21-13.
Montana responded with a long touchdown drive, moving 80 yards in 13 plays and aided by two late-hit penalties against Texas State. A late hit against freshman defensive lineman Adley Eshraghipour turned third-and-nine at the Montana 35 into first down at the 50. Three plays later, cornerback Kenneth Hampton took a flag, turning fourth-and-three at the Texas State 43 into first down at the 28. The Grizzlies later turned those Texas State errors into a one-yard touchdown run for Reynolds to make it 28-13 four plays into the fourth quarter.
Texas State was unable to rally, as its next two possessions ended with turnovers. First, George threw an interception to Montana linebacker Tyler Corwin on third-and-23, giving Montana the ball on the Bobcats 30. Montana went for the kill right away, but Williams intercepted in the end zone, giving the Bobcats a touchback.
Texas State embarked on quick advancement, highlighted by George passes of 24 yards to Da’Marcus Griggs and 34 yards to Luke, the latter taking the Bobcats to the Montana seven. But Alvin Canady fumbled the ball away on the next play.
“We got the ball down in the red zone a couple times and couldn’t put it in the end zone,” Wright said.
Montana responded by pounding the ball down the field, setting up a 37-yard field goal by Brody McKnight to establish the final score of 31-13 with 2:49 left.
George ended the game completing 21 of 33 passes for 259 yards. Senior running back Stan Zwinggi, playing his last game, rushed for 61 yards in nine attempts, but Montana held Karrington Bush to 26 yards in seven carries, finishing Bush’s season with 1,065 rushing yards.
Luke, another senior playing his last game for Texas State, made five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.Email | Print