On Thursday night Montana State quarterback Matthew McKay announced via Twitter that he would be entering the transfer portal. The news comes two days before the Bobcats host UT-Martin in the second round of the FCS playoffs. McKay, who started all 11 regular season games for MSU this fall, was listed as QB1 on the most recent depth chart that the team released on Wednesday.
At the time of publication no official reason for the move has been given by either the school or first-year head coach Brent Vigen. McKay initially transferred to Montana State from NC State in December of 2019 and threw for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, helping the Bobcats to a 9-2 overall record. The dual-threat McKay also carried the ball 78 times for 316 yards.
Despite a hot start in which he threw for over 200 yards in each of MSU's first five games, McKay’s numbers had been declining as of late. In the ‘Cats regular season finale against in-state rival Montana, he was under duress and only threw for 108 yards and a touchdown. Two of his three interceptions this season came in the last four weeks. In that same span MSU started using freshman quarterback Tommy Mellott more, mainly on designed run plays.
When asked about McKay’s recent struggles last week, first-year offensive coordinator Taylor Housewright declined to comment. Vigen attributed some of the offensive issues to the caliber of defenses that MSU has faced in recent weeks. In a press conference this week, Vigen made no indication that McKay intended to leave the program. (You can watch that press conference in its entirety here).
Per NCAA rules, schools are permitted to reduce or stop giving aid to athletes altogether once they enter the portal. It is unlikely that McKay remains on MSU’s roster as long as he’s in the portal. If for some reason he withdraws his name from the portal, Montana State may reinstate him to their active roster.
With McKay apparently done, however, it seems as though that either Mellott or Tucker Rovig will start for the Bobcats this weekend. Rovig, who served as MSU’s starter for the majority of the 2019 season, was listed as MSU’s QB2 on the aforementioned depth chart. He threw for 1,969 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2019 and he led the team to two postseason victories that year as well. Rovig is 9-3 all time as a starter. Meanwhile Mellott has yet to start but has carried the ball 36 times for 294 yards this season. He has only completed two of his four pass attempts for 12 yards.
If the Bobcats really find themselves in a pinch on Saturday, it should be noted that current star linebacker Troy Andersen did also serve as MSU's quarterback in 2018. Andersen rushed for 1,412 yards and 21 scores that fall. He was the starter in their two playoff games that season as well.
Whoever gets the nod for MSU may have a tall task against a Skyhawks defense that forced six turnovers in their win at Missouri State last week. Montana State, the #8 seed in this year’s playoffs, kicks off against UT-Martin on Saturday in Bozeman at 4:00 PM ET.