Four losses: Montana State kicks off Portland State conference title quest with momentum | national



With two unbalanced wins and a narrow loss to an FBS opponent, Montana State is confident in its non-conference success.

With a winning record, the 13th-seeded Bobcats (2-1) focused on the Big Sky game. They begin their conference season at 3:05 p.m. Saturday at Portland State (1-2).

“We are well aware of what awaits us in Portland,” said MSU head coach Brent Vigen.

Preparing for the conference

The Bobcats face an unconventional set of circumstances when preparing for the Vikings. In a typical year, MSU can look back on the movie and compare what was done against Portland State over the past season or two.

However, the Vikings and the Bobcats haven’t faced each other since 2018, and neither team has played a full season since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Each opponent may have a faint idea of ​​what to expect than usual.

The Bobcats have used a wide variety of staff packages on offense and defense. Vigen noted that he shows versatility. MSU is starting a new part of their schedule, but the coach said how his team approach each game depends on the opponent. So the Bobcats can either use a game plan similar to the one they’ve relied on or can turn things around based on what they expect from the State of Portland.

“A conference championship is what we’re trying to achieve,” said Vigen, “so these conference games, as they stack up, I guess that means more every week.”

Isaiah Ifanse of Montana State faces San Diego on Saturday at Bobcat Stadium.

Gains and losses

Vigen said on Monday that the Bobcats “anticipate” defensive back Tyrel Thomas return this week and called him a “good addition”. The eldest who started games since he was a freshman, however, may be in a slightly limited role.

He is making a comeback after his knee surgery in mid-August. This forced him to miss the first three games of the season.

“We had guys who stepped up in his absence,” Vigen said. “But regaining his abilities and his experience will be important.”

Vigen also said the Bobcats hope to reunite with Cole Sain this week. The offensive lineman who was the starting center at the end of spring practice was injured during fall camp and at the end of the Week 1 game in Wyoming. Vigen said Sain trained on Monday.

However, the Bobcats expect backup linebacker Nolan Askelson and defensive back Kendric Bailey to be out for at least a week. Vigen added that fullback RJ Fitzgerald and wide receiver Nate Stewart are also healing from their injuries.

Portland State’s “very dangerous” caller

Vigen said preparation for Portland State begins with his quarterback. Davis Alexander, who started for the Vikings when they lost to MSU in 2018, is once again leading the offense. He entered the season fourth all-time at PSU in total offense (7,234 yards), sixth in passing yards (6,140) and seventh in touchdowns (42) and completed passes (442).

Alexander completed 55% of his passes for 988 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions. He’s also second on the team with 81 rushing yards and another rushing touchdown.

Alexander led Portland State in a 49-35 loss to Hawaii and a 44-24 loss to Washington State, both FBS programs. Then the Vikings beat Western Oregon 21-7 last week.

“First and foremost they have a very dangerous quarterback,” said Vigen. “The quarterback is who we really need to focus on. He is able to extend the games, and it is really him who animates them. They have a good plan.

MSU Football vs. San Diego (copy)

Taylor Tuiasosopo of Montana State celebrates a touchdown from Isaiah Ifanse on Saturday at Bobcat Stadium.

PSU presents a “difficult” defense

Portland State allowed 437.7 yards per game, including 273 in the air. However, defending the Vikings still presents problems for MSU.

The Bobcats, at this point, have faced three teams that typically have four falling defensive linemen. They also, for the most part, trained against this type of line-up because that’s what MSU does in defense.

However, Portland State uses flexible defense, which has different responsibilities than the usual patterns and can be confusing for some offensive coordinators. The hardest part, Vigen said, is for the Vikings to line up a standing linebacker with one or both guards, then kick the other linebackers deeper.

“They attack you from different angles. They give you different looks on the cover, so you have to be on the same page, ”Vigen said. “Our guys need to know what they’re doing and need to do it as fast as they can.”

Portland State also has some notable defenders, which will make MSU’s day more difficult. 6-1, 270-pound defensive tackle VJ Malo, for example, already has a team-high 5.5 sacks in three games. Vigen said the entire MSU offensive line will need to be careful with him due to the freedom he has to move around in the lineup.

Either way, Vigen is hopeful MSU will maintain the offensive balance he has displayed over the past three weeks.

“Hopefully as we go forward we’ve proven that we can pitch and we can run it. Some teams have to honor both sides, ”Vigen said. “It will be interesting to know how the day goes. “


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