BOZEMAN – The Montana State Bobcats had their first defeat of the season last Saturday against South Dakota State, losing to the Jackrabbits 45-14 on the road. The Bobcats struggled offensively, rushing for only 29 total yards. But the big story came on third downs. MSU was 4-for-13 (30.77 percent) on third-down conversions against SDSU.
Montana State had five consecutive three-and-out drives to start the game. It wasn’t until midway through the second quarter that the Bobcats picked up their first first down. That put a lot of pressure on the defense, which spent 37 minutes and 42 seconds on the field.
“I feel bad sometimes because we go three-and-out and our defense has gone 10 plays and has to go right back out. I think from an offensive perspective, first down is going to be what’s important, what we can do on first down so we don’t put ourselves in a hole where we are in a situation where it’s like 3rd-and-8-plus,” said Kevin Kassis, a senior wide receiver for the Bobcats. “That doesn’t help ourselves or the defense, because your percentages of converting that first down go down as you get farther from the first down.”
The growing pains on offense can be contributed in part to consistency at the quarterback position. Troy Andersen started the opener against Western Illinois, but an injury to his left hand forced him to play outside of the quarterback position against SDSU, giving Tucker Rovig the start.
It marked the first time that Montana State has started a different quarterback in its first two games of the year since Kasey Harte and Dusty Broderick split duties to begin the 1999 season.
“Sometimes it’s tough not knowing who the quarterback will be week in and week out, but it’s just one of those things that we have to adapt to quick,” Kassis said. “If Tucker is going to be the guy this week, then we have to rally and make plays for him. We will take it week by week and see who is playing quarterback. You never know, I guess.”
Rovig finished the game 13-of-25 passing with 164 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. It wasn’t a shining debut, but Kassis gave his quarterback credit for jumping in when his number was called.
“I thought (Rovig) did a really good job. Obviously a couple interceptions and whatnot, but I guess those things happen with growing pains. It’s his first time playing college football against the No. 3 team in the nation,” said Kassis. “I actually thought he had a lot of poise back there and made a lot of good throws.”
Andersen and Rovig are listed as co-starters heading into the Wagner game, but whoever starts, the Bobcats will look to find consistency quickly. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.