Live coverage from Macomb, Illinois, as No. 10 Montana State visits Western Illinois, September 14, 2019.
PREGAME: Coming off an important 38-17 victory over ranked Southeast Missouri State at home last week, No. 10 Montana State visits Western Illinois for another key nonconference game today at Hanson Field in Macomb, Illinois.
The Bobcats come into the game at 1-1 overall, and are ranked in the top 10 of the national poll for the first time since 2014. Western Illinois (0-2) lost road games at North Alabama and Colorado State in its first two games, and will play its home opener today.
The game is a rematch of a 26-23 Montana State win from last season, and is the fourth meeting between the teams all-time. MSU leads the series 3-0, with its only previous win at Hanson Field coming on Sept. 4, 1993.
A couple pregame notes: Running back Isaiah Ifanse won't play today after sitting out the second half last week with an injury. Logan Jones is expected to start. Tight end Jacob Hadley, cornerback Greg Filer, receiver Willie Patterson and defensive back Ty Okada will not play.
FIRST QUARTER: Safety Jahque Alleyne sacks QB Connor Sampson on third down to get MSU's offense the ball. Following a WIU punt, the Bobcats achieved first downs on a roughing-the-pass penalty and then on a pass over the middle from Casey Bauman to Kevin Kassis. Bauman later hits Coy Steel to move the chains again, which leads to a 14-yard touchdown by Logan Jones up the middle and a 7-0 MSU lead.
Bobcats punter Jered Padmos rolled a punt inside the 5-yard line later in the quarter. The punt traveled a total of 76 yards. End of quarter: Montana State 7, Western Illinois 0.
SECOND QUARTER: MSU defensive lineman Chase Benson strips the ball from running back Clint Ratkovich, and Brayden Konkol recovers and runs the ball into WIU territory. Benson is then flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for removing his helmet. MSU isn't able to score. At one point on another MSU series, the ball is snapped but nobody on the offensive line moves and Bauman is forced to throw the ball away. That play underscores the sloppiness of MSU's first half on offense.
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The Leathernecks finally take advantage, as Dennis Houston catches a pass over the middle and runs to the end zone on a 65-yard play. That tied the game 7-7 with 6:14 before halftime. On their ensuing drive, the Bobcats lose a fumble as Logan Jones puts the ball on the turf on run that would have moved the chains. WIU recovers. Halftime: Montana State 7, Western Illinois 7.
THIRD QUARTER: The Bobcats go down the field on the first drive of the second half but lose eight yards on third-and-goal due to a bad snap. Tristan Bailey makes a 27-yard field goal, though, to give MSU the lead again at 10-7. Montana State adds to the lead on its next possession as Jones runs 87 yards to the end zone for a 17-7 advantage.
But WIU answered with a touchdown drive after that, which was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Jared Drake. End of quarter: Montana State 17, Western Illinois 14.
FOURTH QUARTER: Bobcats cornerback Damien Washington makes a big interception early in in the quarter and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown, but holding on the return wipes out the touchdown. Nevertheless, it's an important takeaway to kill a promising WIU drive. Padmos is brought in to punt again but the ball hits WIU's Zaire Williams and JoJo Henderson recovers for the Bobcats. That leads to a 41-yard field goal by Bailey and a 20-14 MSU lead.
Montana State caught a break later when WIU kicker Nathan Erickson was wide right on a 35-yard field goal attempt with less than 7:00 left. MSU then kept its next series alive thanks to two third down penalties on WIU — a roughing the passer call and a pass interference foul. Bailey then added a 47-yard field goal to make it a 23-14 game.
FINAL SCORE: Montana State 23, Western Illinois 14