Players to watch and game information for South Dakota State-Montana State | national
TIME, DAY, PLACE: Saturday noon, Bobcat Stadium
RADIO: Bobcat Radio Network, msubobcats.com
WEATHER: 34 degrees, mostly cloudy
Montana State: Brent Vigen
RECORD: 11-2; YEAR: First
Vigen came to MSU after seven seasons as Wyoming’s offensive coordinator. He was an assistant in several roles, including offensive coordinator, before that at North Dakota State.
South Dakota State: John Stiegelmeier
RECORD: 185-110; YEAR: 25th
Stiegelmeier is the winningest coach in program history. SDSU has qualified for the FCS playoffs each of the past 10 years and reached the national semifinals four of the past five seasons, including the title game last spring.
MONTANA STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
22 — Isaiah Ifanse — RB
Last week, Ifanse rushed for 105 yards, which gave him 1,539 for the season. This broke the MSU single-season record. Ifanse, an All-American, passed Ryan Johnson. Although the South Dakota State defense qualifies, Ifanse will once again have to continue to perform at a high level for MSU.
10 – Nate Stewart – WR
Stewart caught a 25-yard pass last week. The transfer graduate from Akron has sometimes shown what he is capable of after recovering from injury. If the Bobcats want to be balanced offensively with Tommy Mellott making his third career start, Stewart may have to play a key role in that regard.
1 — Eric Zambrano — CB
Zambrano missed last week’s game against Sam Houston through injury. However, it is expected this week. The second has been among MSU’s best cornerbacks all season. If the Bobcats miss any starters through injuries, Zambrano and the rest of the Bobcats secondary will hope to step up a gear.
SOUTH DAKOTA STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
6 – Chris Oladokun – QB
Oladokun was effective. He’s in the top 20 in the FCS with 2,849 passing yards while completing 62% of his passes for 24 touchdowns and six picks. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound graduate transfer quarterbacked SDSU after Mark Gronowski was injured in the FCS Championship last spring.
22 – Isaiah Davis – RB
With All-American Pierre Strong, who leads the Jackrabbits and the nation with 1,592 rushing yards, running out of time last week, Davis led the SDSU. He paced the Jackrabbits with 174 yards on 25 carries. If Strong is absent again, Davis can be summoned by the Jackrabbits.
32 – Adam Bock – LB
Bock propelled the SDSU defense in various ways. He leads the Jackrabbits with 119 tackles, which puts him in the top 15 in the nation, with nine tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, eight passes defended and two forced fumbles.
-Montana State has faced South Dakota State four times since the Jackrabbits began the process of transitioning to Division I, three at Bozeman and dropped three of four. The Bobcats are 10-5 against SDSU.
– The first time Montana State and South Dakota State played was in the 1956 MSU National Championship season.
– The Bobcats have now reached the FCS semi-finals twice in two consecutive seasons. The last time they reached this point was when they won a national championship in 1984.
–Brent Vigen is the first Big Sky head coach in 21 years to lead a team to the national semi-finals in a first year.
– The Jackrabbits have given up 24 points or less in their last seven games, including three in the playoffs.
– The Bobcats are second in the nation, behind North Dakota alone, with 13.15 points allowed per game. They are also 12th in the FCS with 284.5 yards allowed per game.
– Despite the change of starting quarterback after the regular season, the Bobcats are 12th in the nation in passing efficiency (149.42). SDSU is seventh (156.49).
– MSU is 10th in FCS with 3.15 sacks per game.
– Montana State is tied for fifth in the nation with a plus-1 revenue margin. The Jackrabbits are second (plus-1.21).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Montana State’s playoff fate looked in doubt when the Bobcats decided to start quarterback Tommy Mellott against Matthew McKay, who then entered the transfer gate. The Bobcats would need Mellott to show drastic improvements as a passer.
Butte’s freshman did just that. While showing off his abilities as a runner, Mellott made accurate throws on his way to leading MSU to a win over defending national champion and top seed Sam Houston. The Bobcats’ running game and defense also remained strong.
South Dakota State is a tough opponent. But the Jackrabbits will have been on the road for three consecutive games, and the Bobcats will have hosted two of their last three with a bye week before that. MSU has what it takes to reach the FCS Championship.
Pool pick: Montana State 35, South Dakota State 31