Weber State football: 5 questions to preview Montana State with beat writer Victor Flores
With No. 9 Montana State visiting Ogden for the first time since 2018 to face No. 19 Weber State, I solicited the help of MSU beat writer Victor Flores of 406mtsports.com to provide insight on the Bobcats.
1. Matt McKay’s numbers say he’s everything MSU could have ever wanted him to be when they brought him in via transfer. What’s been the most impressive part of his game so far and how has the staff set him up to succeed like this?
VF: McKay’s intelligence has stood out the most to me. Coaches and teammates have praised him for his exhaustive film study and for attending every offensive position group’s meetings. That preparation has been apparent on the field, where he’s looked confident and has rarely made a mistake. His only interception this season happened at Portland State on a play where Lance McCutcheon ran an out route while McKay threw it deep. McKay’s comments on that play were illustrative: he said he should’ve know McCutcheon would cut to the outside based on PSU’s defense. In other words, he was reading the defense rather than simply relying on a basic route tree. That reflects McKay’s comfort with McCutcheon, by far his favorite target, and the coaches’ trust in McKay to make good decisions.
He’s thrown a good balance of short, intermediate and deep throws while not being asked to carry the offense, forcing defenses to expect the run but respect the pass. MSU has not had a quarterback this well-rounded in years (I should note that he’s a good runner, too).
2. The last time Montana State played in Ogden, Troy Andersen was the quarterback. He’s second all-time on MSU’s rushing TDs list. This season, he’s the team’s leading tackler and has more than one TFL per game at linebacker. Just how important is Andersen to what MSU is?
VF: Less important than when he played QB, and not just because that’s the most important position. Andersen underwent knee surgery last year, and most of MSU’s games have been blowouts, so coaches have limited his playing time. He arguably hasn’t been MSU’s best defensive player, either. Defensive end Daniel Hardy, nose tackle Chase Benson and nickel-back Ty Okada all have good cases for that title.
But I certainly don’t want to make it sound like Andersen is replaceable. He’s an All-American-level talent who has received legitimate NFL buzz. As the Bobcats face tougher opponents, I expect him to make a bigger impact and compete for the Buck Buchanan Award.
3. A per-game average of 230 rushing yards is a hefty number, and Isaiah Ifanse (110 ypg, 6.1 ypc) joins McKay in creating a tough attack. What should WSU fans expect to see in the run game: power formations, read-option from the shotgun, etc? What’s the bread and butter?
VF: Mostly shotgun with a bunch of read-option and play-action, especially since starting fullback RJ Fitzgerald has been out since the second game of the season with an injury. But the Bobcats still run some under-center sets with a fullback. They also mix in some sweeps and run wildcat quarterback plays with freshman Tommy Mellott, who rushed for a 74-yard touchdown against Cal Poly last week.
4. MSU turned heads and was nearly part of the Big Sky’s big open of the season, nearly grabbing a win at Wyoming. Since then, the Bobcats have a pretty awful strength of schedule but have dispatched that string of bad teams like good teams should do. Is there a sense of eagerness with the team to make this trip to Weber and see how the chips fall?
VF: No question. They believe they should have won the Wyoming game and haven’t faced anyone at that level since. Like any competitor, the Bobcats want to test themselves against the best. Weber is probably a bigger matchup than Wyoming, too, considering it’s in-conference on a Friday night and the Wildcats are coming off a bye.
5. Jeff Choate brought a pretty strong personality and identity to Bozeman. He was a defensive coach, Brent Vigen is mostly a career offensive coach. What’s the sense of how Vigen’s personality or approach is impacting the identity of this team?
VF: I didn’t cover MSU when Choate was coach, but it’s clear Vigen’s personality is not as strong as Choate’s, based on conversations I’ve had with other media members and people within the program. Choate was more of a players coach. Vigen is more business-like. That doesn’t mean more players liked Choate than Vigen. I’m sure some did, while others prefer Vigen.
Some penalties aside, MSU has looked prepared, focused and disciplined so far this season, and Vigen deserves credit for that. He also has his fingerprints all over the Bobcats’ balanced, productive offense and has certainly played a role in their excellent defense, namely picking Freddie Banks as defensive coordinator.