Defensive disaster; road woes continue for Cats

Another road trip and  another dismal outing for the Montana State Bobcats. Against Portland State University on Oct. 17, the Bobcat defense didn’t register a stop until late in the third quarter, allowing eight straight touchdown drives to the Vikings. The offense tried to keep the Cats in the game, but the daunting task of scoring every possession proved to be too much and MSU lost 59-42 and dropped to 3-3 on the season.

Things started off well enough for the Cats when junior Dakota Prukop took the ball 61 yards on a quarterback sneak on the third play of the game to draw first blood. However, PSU answered immediately and scored on their first play of the game, with poor tackling and poor positioning turning a routine off-tackle run into a 79-yard TD scamper. With fewer than two minutes off the clock, it was clear the Cats were in for a dogfight.

The teams traded blows to a 14-14 stalemate, with neither defense looking particularly capable of stopping the prolific offenses, until the Cats went three-and-out twice in a row and Portland State capitalized. The Vikings ran rampant over the Bobcats’ paper thin defense and gave themselves a 14-point cushion while the Bobcat offense stalled out. This early second quarter lead would prove to be the difference maker in the game and the Cats would never close the gap.

If things looked bad in the first half, they only got worse in the second. MSU Head Coach Rob Ash elected to try an onside kick in an attempt to get the ball back right after the break, but the attempt failed and gave PSU excellent field position. The Vikings made quick work of whatever adjustments MSU made at the half and scored on a quick, five play drive to double the Cats up a 42-21.

While there were some second half highlights for the Bobcats, such as a 100 yard kickoff return touchdown by freshman Logan Jones and a forced fumble by sophomore Mac Bignell, but ultimately the Bobcats could not overcome the complete lack of execution on the defensive side of the ball. Allowing a near record number of rushing yards — 465, 56 points in three quarters and 32 first downs, the defense continues to unimpress. Showing no lessons learned or improvement after last week’s acceptable performance against Sacramento State, the MSU coaches cannot seem to crack the defensive conundrum. Poor lineup pre-snap, poor tackling and poor pursuit angles continue to allow opposing offenses to have their way with the Cats, even through the seventh week of the season.
With a home game against winless and newly promoted East Tennessee State University this weekend, surely the Bobcats will look to right the ship against a very poor team. The Cats better make the most of the learning opportunity because they hit the road in two weeks to face a resurgent North Dakota program. ETSU has not won a game this season and has lost to a Division III school, so when the game kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 2:35 p.m. let’s hope the Bobcats come to play.