TELEVISION: ABC Montana (Chris Byers, Mike Callaghan, Aunica Koch)
RADIO: Bobcat Radio Network (Jason Alvine, Zach Mackey, Dan Davies)
WEATHER: 58 degrees, rain showers
Montana State: Jeff Choate
RECORD: 19-19; YEAR: Fourth
Choate came to MSU after several stints as a position coach at FBS schools including Washington, Washington State, Florida and Boise State. He led the Bobcats to their first playoff appearance and victory in five years last season.
Norfolk State: Latrell Scott
RECORD: 17-30; YEAR: Fifth
The Spartans have never won more than four games in a season under Scott. He previously was the head coach at Virginia State for two years and at Richmond for a season.
MONTANA STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Casey Bauman - QB
Bauman has struggled with accuracy through three games, completing just 48.6% of his passes. But his decision making has been solid as he hasn’t thrown any interceptions. Against a defense that's allowed an average of nearly 250 rushing yards per game, MSU’s passing could have the opportunity to open up as well and the redshirt freshman signal caller may finally find a groove.
Isaiah Ifanse - RB
Ifanse missed last week’s game against Western Illinois due to injury but head coach Jeff Choate said he may have played if it was a conference game. The sophomore running back gained 77 rushing yards against Texas Tech and 114 in the first half against Southeast Missouri. He could return with a breakout game against a struggling run defense.
Michael Jobman - LB
Jobman ranks seventh in the Big Sky in tackles for loss with 3.5 and could play a key role in helping the Bobcats’ defense contain the Spartans’ athletic playmakers. Despite not being listed as a starter on MSU’s depth chart, Jobman has made at least five tackles in each of the season’s first three games.
NORFOLK STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Juwan Carter - QB
Carter is both the Spartan’s leading passer and leading rusher. Through three games, he’s completed 40 of 67 passes for 458 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s also added 91 rushing yards and a score on 24 carries. His ability to scramble could pose problems for the Bobcats’ defense.
Nigel Chavis - LB
Chavis has made 11 solo tackles and 11 assisted tackles and his 22 total lead NSU. He also forced a fumble last week at Coastal Carolina. Choate called him someone who “can play just about anywhere” with his 6-foot-2, 230-pound body and athleticism to play tackle to tackle as well as in space.
Da’Kendall James - WR
James leads the Spartans in receptions (nine) and receiving yards (128). Standing at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Choate lauded James’ athleticism, a theme throughout NSU’s entire roster. In the season opener against Old Dominion, James racked up 101 yards on five catches.
BY THE NUMBERS
14 — The Bobcats’ defense has forced a turnover in 14 straight games
4 — By beating Western Illinois last week, the Bobcats improved to 4-23 in regular season road nonconference games this century.
12 — MSU’s 12 penalties committed against the Leathernecks were the most in a game under head coach Jeff Choate.
48.6 — Quarterback Casey Bauman has completed 48.6% of his pass attempts this season.
5 — Running back Logan Jones has scored a touchdown in five of the last six games he’s played in.
38 — Left tackle Mitch Brott has started 38 games in a row.
23 — MSU has won 23 of its last 25 nonconference home games.
1 — The Bobcats have only one giveaway this season, which leads the Big Sky.
3 — Kicker Tristan Bailey made three field goals against WIU, earning him Big Sky special teams player of the week honors.
— MSU has never faced a school from Virginia, a MEAC opponent or an HBCU.
— Norfolk State ranks 102nd in the country in rushing defense.
— Troy Andersen’s 28 career rushing touchdowns ranks fourth in MSU history.
— The Bobcats have recovered three fumbles in three games this season.
— Jered Padmos’ 76-yard punt last week at Western Illinois was his career long and tied for sixth-longest in school history.
— Linebacker Daniel Hardy, tight end Derryk Snell and wide receiver Coy Steel each made their first career starts last week.
MONTANA STATE KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Containing Juwan Carter
Bobcats head coach Jeff Choate compared Juwan Carter to a “shorter Chris Murray,” a reference to his former quarterback. Carter has the ability to keep plays alive with his legs and has hurt opponents when plays break down. If MSU can contain him, the Bobcats will have a very good chance to take down the Spartans on Saturday.
2. Effective run game
A majority of the Bobcats’ wins in recent years have come in part because of their ability to run the ball well. As redshirt freshman quarterback Casey Bauman works through his growing pains, MSU can still win if the offensive line dictates the game and the Bobcats’ running backs continue to perform. With Logan Jones having a career day a week ago, MSU showed its depth.
3. Limiting explosive plays
Norfolk State has scored three touchdowns this season on plays that gained 30 or more yards. The Bobcats also allowed a 69-yard score at Texas Tech and a 65-yard touchdown a week ago. MSU is favored in this matchup and if the Spartans can’t score on quick bursts, they’ll likely have a tough time moving the ball on lengthy possessions against the Bobcats’ stout defense.
THE BOTTOM LINE
MSU has won two straight games and as the No. 8-ranked team in the FCS, the Bobcats have a good chance to keep things rolling in the right direction. Norfolk State hasn’t won more than four games in a season since 2011. Despite barely losing to FBS Old Dominion in Week 1, the Spartans are the underdogs for good reason.
With conference play looming a week away, MSU’s players and coaches are aware of the importance of each matchup. The Bobcats have desires of going undefeated at home and earning a top-eight seed in the playoffs. In order to make that happen, they need to take care of business at home. And they likely will.
Pool’s pick: Montana State 42, Norfolk State 14