BOZEMAN — Jeff Choate quickly preempted any media inquiries regarding Montana State’s quarterback competition following the team’s first scrimmage of fall camp.
Choate, MSU’s fourth-year head coach, didn’t say one way or another if the team is any closer to making a decision between Tucker Rovig and Casey Bauman after Saturday’s outing, which was closed to the media and the general public.
But a choice could be made sooner rather than later.
“I can’t really give you that answer right now,” Choate said. “I think that’s going to come through us sitting down as a staff going through this in a very detailed fashion and evaluating that.
“If we’re ready to make a decision we’ll announce that on Monday. And if we’re not, we won’t make an announcement on Monday. That’s kind of where we’re at.”
Rovig, a sophomore, and Bauman, a redshirt freshman, are battling for the starting job that was held last season by Troy Andersen, who has since shifted to outside linebacker.
Both quarterbacks were deemed live for contact during the scrimmage, Choate said, in an effort to simulate as much of a game-like setting as possible and to attain a more balanced evaluation.
Bauman completed 6 of 11 passes for 77 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Rovig was 3 of 7 for 14 yards with one pick. Redshirt freshman Ruben Beltran was 3 for 3 for 42 yards.
Statistics were provided by MSU’s sports information office.
Choate said both Rovig and Bauman had their moments.
“I thought they both showed good poise. That was one of the things that I was really looking for,” Choate said. “There was some short-yardage stuff where you’re standing back behind the huddle and listening to both of them (saying), ‘Hey, let’s go get this done.’ That’s the right demeanor that I wanted to see.
“The negative stuff, a lot of times that’s hard to really say without going back and looking at the film. I can tell you I don’t think he made the right read there, but I haven’t seen it on tape either. So I want to make sure we’re not being overly critical.
"I guarantee there were some negatives, but those things will be hard for me to say just off the top of my head.”
Wide receiver Kevin Kassis caught Bauman's touchdown pass, and finished with 45 receiving yards. Coy Steel hauled in a 30-yard pass.
Other offensive notables including running back Isaiah Ifanse, who was credited with 44 yards rushing yards and three touchdowns. True freshman running back DeMareus Hosey had 25 yards, while Travis Jonsen rushed for 19 yards and Karl Tucker had 17 yards.
Kassis, a senior from El Dorado, California, offered this evaluation of the quarterback situation:
“Those guys stepped up as leaders, and I was really proud of Casey,” Kassis said. “Especially on that last drive getting things going, getting him in a groove. Going live for him, just getting more opportunities to get more experience, I think that was good for him.”
From a defensive standpoint, Choate said linebacker Walker Cozzie hit Rovig hard coming off the edge on the second play of the scrimmage, but that Rovig got up, dusted himself off and wasn’t fazed.
Choate said the defense had three takeaways — interceptions by cornerback Greg Filer and safeties Ty Okada and Jahque Alleyne, the latter of which led the Big Sky Conference in picks last year with five.
Linebacker Nolan Askelson, a Billings Senior product, had the defense’s only tackle for loss. Buck end Amandre Williams broke up a pass, as did Cozzie. Safety Eric Zambrano forced a fumble.
“Defensively, as is the case a lot of times in scrimmages, those guys get their motor running and I thought they had the upper hand early. Probably had a little bit more juice,” Choate said. “But as things went on the offense kept their composure and made their runs.
“It was good. I felt it was kind of workmanlike. Nobody was going crazy. It wasn’t too high, it wasn’t too low. I thought it was very appropriate in terms of where we’re at. I’ve kind of felt that way about our entire fall camp, really.”
The scrimmage was moved up roughly two hours to avoid the potential for a weather delay, but Choate said it was still halted early due to lightning being detected within six miles of Bobcat Stadium.
Choate said some of MSU’s veteran players were kept away from contact, including Andersen and fifth-year senior linebacker Josh Hill.
The team will not practice Sunday but is scheduled to return to practice Monday with the possibility of the starting quarterback being named.
“It would be nice to just have an idea who that guy is, but if they’re not ready to make that decision and they want to keep battling this thing out — and that could be the possibility — then that’s what it is,” Kassis said.
“I think we feel comfortable with both guys.”