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Tech should have no trouble carving through Montana State secondary en route to season-opening win

It’s finally football time in West Texas. Here’s what you need to know about our first game of the season.

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We made it. We actually made it, y’all, It’s week one of the college football season on the South Plains. That means for the next 12 or so Saturdays, we get to hear Brian Jensen almost have a heart attack while screaming “TOUCHDOWN RED RAIDERS!”. We get to walk across the beautiful Tech campus and see the Will Rogers and Soapsuds statue wrapped, experience the great tailgating scene around Jones AT&T stadium and, hopefully, listen as the Victory Bells ring out a Red Raider win.

Yes, all of that is back. But with that comes previewing the enemy every week. This week’s enemy: The Montana State Bobcats.

One of the only good things to come out of one my previous jobs was to travel to the Western United States. And while I imagine a lot of you would suggest California would be my favorite destination, I actually would say Montana was by far the best. For one, I like fly fishing, and that whole state is a fly fisher’s dream, but also the biggest towns in that state are literally traditional college towns, much like Lubbock. While Missoula was my absolute favorite stop, Bozeman was surprisingly beautiful and stuck with me as a very underrated stop along I-90. A quaint-like college town, where the mountainous western part of the state meets the rolling foothills of the middle part of the state, with access to numerous Rocky Mountain streams that branch off of the Gallatin River to wade out into and pretend you’re Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It.

Okay, enough waxing poetic about the state of Montana and city of Bozeman. It’s week one, people. Time to get your mind right.

First Down - The Enemy:

The Montana State Bobcats play in the Big Sky Conference and are led by their fourth-year head coach Jeff Choate. Choate has a bit of a “Kingsbury-ian” record (yes I just made that up and it fits) of 17-18. He has tried to replace notable head coach Robert Ash, who guided Montana State to an overall record of 70-38 that even included an 11-win season and three conference titles in 2010, 2011 and 2012. What also makes Choate even more similar to the former Texas Tech football coach is that this is actually Choate’s first head coaching job. Where the differences lie is that while Choate’s first few seasons in Bozeman were extremely mediocre, he was able to get his team to improve and did go 8-5 last year, and got the Bobcats to the second round of the FCS Playoffs.

Choate’s background is mainly focused on defense where prior to arriving at Montana State he served as a defensive line coach at Washington, a linebackers coach at Washington State, and even was a defensive coordinator for Tech’s week two opponent, UTEP.

Second Down - Key Players:

As for the offense, Montana State named redshirt freshman Casey Bauman as the starting quarterback, who at 6’6” and 235 pounds. He has a big arm and has folks in Bozeman believing they found the next Carson Wentz. He takes over for previous linebacker converted QB, now converted back to linebacker, Troy Anderson. With 1,515 total rushing yards last season and an unusual QB-power run offense, Anderson was the wheel that kept the MSU offense going. While he isn’t the starter, I wouldn’t completely rule out seeing him get some snaps at QB Saturday.

While I think Bauman may show off his big arm and help the MSU offense become more balanced eventually, I don’t necessarily think the game plan for Montana State will change from a run heavy offense in week one of the season. I would assume to help protect their young quarterback in his first career start, they will rely on a combination at running back with Isaiah Ifanse, who is coming off a 1,000-yard season.

Montana State touts an impressive FCS defense, which includes dynamic transfer at safety Jahque Alleyn, who is a previous Virginia Tech transfer and led the league in interceptions last year. The unit also has a defensive line with transfers from Washington in DE Amandre Williams and Jason Scrempos, who is listed at 6’6 and 300 pounds to give MSU some size up-front. One notable player to also watch is DE Bryce Sterk, who logged 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss last season. While I don’t think the Bobcat defensive line should be too much of an issue for a combination of the veteran Tech offensive line that boasts 112 total career starts and all stand over 6’5” and weigh over 305 pounds and the up-temp style of offense Tech will come out with, it could be something to watch out for if Terence Steele is not able to play Saturday.

Where I think the Texas Tech offense has the biggest advantage is the receiver-cornerback match up. The two starting corners are listed at 5’9”, and have the task of covering 6’3” Erik Ezukanma and 6’6” TJ Vasher…good luck!

Third Down - The Numbers:

  • Montana State gave up 47 touchdowns scored 47 touchdowns last season. This means they gave up 370 points, but also scored 370 points and as a numbers guy, I cannot get enough of this symmetry. For comparison’s sake, Tech scored 448 points, but gave up 373 points.
  • Of those 47 touchdowns, 37 of them came from the ground, and 21 of those came exclusively from Troy Anderson.
  • At QB, Anderson had 206 rushing attempts for 1,515 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, while on the flipside, he only had 115 completions on 208 attempts for 1,195 yards and three touchdowns. Again, Anderson isn’t the quarterback expected to start on Saturday, but I do think we could see him there.
  • Montana State averaged 5.8 yards per play on offense (ranking no. 52 in FCS), while also giving up exactly 5.8 yards per play on defense (ranking No. 65 in FCS). GIVE ME ALL THE SYMMETRY!

Fourth Down - The Prediction:

While I may have tried to over play it above, I don’t foresee a repeat of the Central Arkansas game from 2014. Matt Wells gets a great chance to debut his program in front 60,000 fans in Jones AT&T stadium against an FCS opponent that the Red Raiders should absolutely blowout.

Success on Saturday, to me, is fairly simple:

  • Score a lot of points by exposing their undersized corners with your size at WR early and tempo .
  • Keep the playbook “vanilla” (Yes! My favorite generic fan excuse for not scoring 80 points the first week!).
  • Get new guys some real-game experience.
  • Above all else, remain healthy.

While I think the overall talent and depth on the Texas Tech roster will put them over the top, I also think the up-tempo offensive style will also wear down the Bobcats fairly quickly. With that said, it is just the first game and it’s August, thus it may not be as big a blowout as people want.

Texas Tech 49, Montana State 17.