In a game that featured over 800 yards of total offense and 73 points it was visiting Montana State (3-1) that came out victorious over Eastern Washington (1-2). It seemed as though “The Inferno” threw everything it could at the Bobcats; from an injury to their starting quarterback to another firework show from Gunner Talkington. In the end, though, it didn’t matter for Brent Vigen’s team as they outlasted EWU for a big win.
It started fast for Eastern Washington. After a three-and-out by the defense, Gunner Talkington led the Eagles 65 yards in only three plays to go up 7-0 early. Micah Smith scampered 56 yards to the end zone in a flash.
MSU answered promptly. With their top three running backs all out due to various injuries, it was fourth-stringer Elijah Elliot who carried the load for the Bobcats. Elliot responded to Smith’s long TD run with one of his own, a 45-yard burst to knot things up.
At this point it was becoming clear that the game was going to be a back-and-forth affair. Smith once more put Eastern Washington on top with his second touchdown run of the afternoon. This time, though, Montana State was only able to hit back with a field goal.
Late in the first quarter, MSU’s defense rose to the occasion and forced its first punt. Trailing by four, the ‘Cats put together another touchdown drive but it came at a cost. On a routine run play, quarterback Tommy Mellott was hit hard and his head bounced off the turf. Eventually he was helped off the field but would not return to the game.
With Mellott out, backup Sean Chambers took control. Chambers, who is typically in on a good portion of Montana State’s offensive snaps anyways, connected with receiver Willie Patterson for a five-yard touchdown midway through the second to put MSU up 24-21.
EWU’s offense hit a cold stretch before halftime. They punted twice more before the intermission but a missed field goal my the ‘Cats kept it a three-point game.
Montana State would see its largest lead of the afternoon early in the third quarter when Chambers pushed his way into the end zone from two yards out. It was one of two touchdowns he would get on the ground during the game.
Trailing 21-31 early in the final period, Eastern Washington’s offense finally woke up again. Talkington hit Freddie Roberson who sprinted 80 yards down the sideline to cut the Bobcats lead to three once more.
On the next drive, Talkington would throw his first touchdown of the day to Nolan Ulm. Ulm’s eight-yard scoring catch gave the lead back to the Eagles with 9:24 to go.
From there, things got wild. Chambers and the MSU offense marched all the way down to Eastern Washington 8-yard line where they faced a 4th and goal. Chambers’ pass was intercepted in the end zone by Jaren Banks. It seemed as though EWU had the game well in hand with under four minutes to play.
On the first play of the possession, however, Smith fumbled and MSU’s Ty Okada fell on the loose ball deep in EWU territory. The now rejuvenated ‘Cats offense only needed two plays to go back on top. Chambers rumbled his way in for an FCS-leading ninth rushing touchdown on the season and Montana State was up three.
On a last-gasp attempt, Talkington bombed a deep pass to Ulm who appeared to come down with it in traffic. The ball popped out at the end, though, and Montana State players rejoiced in celebration. The ‘Cats held on for the 38-35 victory.
Talkington ended his day with 230 pass yards and three touchdowns on 17 completions. Smith led the way on the ground with two more scores and 114 yards.
Eastern Washington has only lost 13 games at home since it’s famed red turf was installed back in 2010. Two of those losses has come at the hands of Montana State both last year and now this year. The Eagles will try to refocus as they prepare to take on Florida next weekend.
For MSU this is a huge win. Not only was EWU one of the harder opponents on their Big Sky slate, but to beat them without Mellott and several running backs is great for the team’s confidence. Elliot ran for 141 yards while Chambers rushed for another 144. Now Montana State will return home for a primetime battle against UC Davis next Saturday night.