After a back and forth final quarter, the Montana State Bobcats emerged from a shootout with Sacramento State with a 59-56 victory. A touchdown pass by sophomore quarterback Dakota Prukop to freshman wideout Mitch Herbert with just four seconds left on the clock clinched the victory for the Cats.
The scoring started early when Prukop was picked off and returned for a touchdown on his second pass of the game. The young quarterback was not deterred by the mistake though, responding with a scoring drive on the next series. Prukop capped off the drive with a 30-yard dash and a quick seven points to tie the game. However, as would be a recurring event throughout the game, the Sac State Hornets immediately responded with a 75-yard touchdown pass on their first offensive snap.
By the time the first flurry of scores ended at the conclusion on the first quarter, the Bobcats held a 21-14 lead. In the second quarter, the game appeared to settle down as the teams traded scoreless possessions and a couple missed field goals. At the half, the score remained 21-14.
The scoring drought ended midway through the third quarter when Prukop found freshman Jayshawn Gates and from then on, the scoring didn’t stop until the final whistle. The Cats were able to extend their lead to 35-21, but the Hornets weren’t going to give up.
Led by senior quarterback Garrett Saffron, Sac State clawed their way back into the game, matching the Bobcats score for score, grabbing the lead for the first time since the early phases of the game with just over four minutes left to play, making the score 49-45.
Sophomore Gunnar Brekke answered for the Bobcats, hauling in a 59-yard heave from Prukop to snatch the lead again. The Hornets were more than ready to strike back, however, and drove 79 yards on seven plays culminating with a touchdown with just one minute left on the clock.
Brekke came up big one more time in the closing minute, returning the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Sac State 30-yard line, putting the Cats in great field position to try to make a game winning play. Prukop was more than ready to answer the call. MSU scored the go-ahead touchdown with just four seconds left and the victory was all but sealed. The Hornets weren’t quite done though. Thanks to a strange penalty on what would have been the final play of the game, Sac State was given one last untimed down, and in a game like this, it felt like anything was possible. Fortunately for the Cats, they were able to come up with a stop and escape Sacramento with a win.
Over 1,300 total yards were compiled in a game that at times looked more like a track meet than a football game. Prukop once again led the Cats in both passing and rushing, throwing for 348 yards and rushing for another 140. The sophomore also accounted for all eight of Montana State’s touchdowns, throwing for five and rushing for three. His Sac State counterpart Saffron was no slouch either, throwing for 463 yards and 5 touchdowns while rushing for 146.
“If every game was exactly the same, it’d be a real drag,” Bobcat Head Coach Rob Ash commented. “That’s what makes it fun . . . They’re a very competitive team. Garrett Saffron is one of the best quarterbacks in the league.”
The Bobcats will head back to California next week to face UC Davis in a matchup with an Aggies squad that has lost in their past three contests. However, with the shape the Cats defense is in, another shootout by MSU certainly wouldn’t be a surprise. The game will kick off at 5:10 p.m. MST.