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Weber State football: 5 questions to preview Montana State with beat writer Victor Flores

By Brett Hein - Standard-Examiner | Oct 19, 2022

Freddie Lacey, Weber State Athletics

Weber State defensive linemen Mitchel Maxfield (39) and Jared Schiess, left, corral Montana State running back Isaiah Ifanse center, during a game Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden.

No. 5 Weber State football is taking its undefeated record to No. 3 Montana State this week in what most are considering the FCS game of the week.

We solicited the help of Montana State beat writer Victor Flores of 406mtsports.com to learn more about the Bobcats from someone who watches them each week.

Below are five questions and Flores’ answers to help preview the game.

1. Montana State lost a lot of graduating players and outgoing transfers, so it seemed somewhat tenuous if the Bobcats could remain as a top-5 or top-10 type team after reaching the title game last year. But so far, here they are. Who have been the 2-3 most important guys to keep MSU in conference title/national seed contention?

Victor Flores: MSU’s rushing offense has been one of the best in the FCS due largely to Sean Chambers, who has formed a dangerous two-QB system with Tommy Mellott and played really well as a full-time quarterback in the 2 3/4 games Mellott missed with an injury.

Sebastian Valdez has been a monster in his second season as MSU’s starting defensive tackle. His 7 1/2 sacks are tied for first in the Big Sky and tied for third in the FCS. Again, he’s an interior lineman!

I want to make my third answer the entire offensive line but that feels like cheating, so I’ll spotlight center Justus Perkins. He’s not only blocked well, he’s been a leader for a young O-line that has performed at last year’s level (at least from my inexpert perspective) despite losing four starters.

2. One storyline for MSU this season has been the slew of injured running backs. Now, offensive line injuries are piling up. What’s the latest on those positions and who is stepping up?

VF: MSU entered the season without All-American running back Isaiah Ifanse, who’s making progress from knee surgery but will miss at least the Weber State game, according to head coach Brent Vigen. Kaegun Williams topped the season-opening depth chart at RB but hasn’t played a snap because of a season-ending neck injury. Promising true freshman Jared White is also out for the year due to a leg injury he suffered in Week 2. The Bobcats did get Lane Sumner back from a four-game injury a couple weeks ago, and Elijah Elliott stepped up when he was basically the only RB on the roster.

Starting right tackle Marcus Wehr sustained a season-ending leg injury in last week’s game at Northern Colorado. First-string right guard Cole Sain hurt his knee in that game and I’d say he’s doubtful for Saturday, based on Vigen’s comments. Sain was frequently subbed out for Omar Aigbedion before the injury, so Aigbedion should be able to step in for Sain with little, if any, drop-off. Wehr’s replacement, Jacob Kettels, is a little less certain, but he looked fine after Wehr went down.

3. How much has Montana State’s offense changed with Sean Chambers at QB? He obviously turned heads running the football in his first start, but how much is by design and how much is extending plays and improvising?

VF: Almost all of it has been by design. Until Mellott got hurt, Chambers rarely threw the ball. He’s mainly entered games in red zone situations as a Wildcat QB and used a lethal blend of power and speed to rack up 620 yards and an FCS-leading 16 touchdowns on the ground. He and Mellott have sometimes run option plays with each other too. MSU has utilized more of an outside zone run scheme than last year, but the bread and butter is the same: lots of read and run-pass option. Chambers has given defenses two All-Big Sky-caliber dual-threat QBs to prepare for.

4. With defensive personnel, what is the best avenue to success for the Bobcats? Who usually stands out when MSU is playing well?

VF: I mentioned Valdez, and Callahan O’Reilly is one of the best inside linebackers in the conference. Like O’Reilly, nickelback Ty Okada earned All-Big Sky second-team honors last year, and he plays a vital role in MSU’s 4-2-5 defense. Free safety Jeffrey Manning Jr. and cornerbacks James Campbell and Simeon Woodard have flashed all-conference ability as well. The D-line is deep and can get pressure without blitz help, thanks to skill and the stunts MSU runs.

5. This game has been a sellout (minus standing-room tickets) for a couple weeks and is likely going to be the second-largest crowd Weber plays in front of this season. Do you feel like you’ve seen Bobcat Stadium at full-throat in your time covering the team, and how do you describe that atmosphere in Bozeman?

VF: The FCS semifinal game against South Dakota State last year at Bobcat Stadium had one of the best game atmospheres I’ve ever experienced. Several regular season games have been electric too, but SDSU is the only highly ranked team MSU has hosted in my season and a half covering this team, so I expect Saturday’s game to be extra loud. MSU fans are engaged on every snap (at least before garbage time), they erupt whenever the Bobcats make a big play and they make it incredibly hard for opposing offenses to hear anything, especially when those offenses are driving south toward the student section.

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