Montana State came up big on defense in last week’s 16-10 second-round playoff victory over Stony Brook, but another challenge awaits. The Bobcats are in the quarterfinal round for the second consecutive season, where again they’ll face Sam Houston State. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. Friday in Bozeman.
MSU is out for a little revenge. Sam Houston rolled the Cats 49-13 in last year’s playoff meeting on the way to a berth in the national championship game. The Bearkats’ vaunted option running game was huge in that contest, but the Bobcats have worked diligently since then to clean up their run defense. They get another crack at it Friday.
We gave you a list of the top five players to watch before the Stony Brook game, and it actually turned out to be fairly accurate (imagine that). Here is our list of the top guys to watch in this week’s contest:
1. MONTANA STATE LB JODY OWENS
- The Bobcats’ leader on defense is Owens, be it statistically or vocally. Owens will have the task of keeping his teammates in the right positions to attack Sam Houston State’s tricky and dynamic option offense. And that is a hugely important role. If guys are out of position, that’s when big plays strike. Owens must make sure guys are staying in their gaps, reading their keys correctly, swarming to the ball and tackling assuredly. A stalwart at linebacker, Owens doesn’t miss many plays. And neither do his teammates. If that trend continues as it has late in the season, the Cats will be successful. Owens will be key Friday night.
2. SAM HOUSTON STATE WR RICHARD SINCERE
- Sincere’s numbers aren’t what they were when the Bearkats made a run to the FCS title game last season, but that doesn’t make him any less dangerous. Sincere’s greatest commodity is his speed. He is primarily a receiver, but Sincere also lines up as the running back in SHSU “Wild Bearkat” formation. He burned the Bobcats out of it last season, rushing for 160 yards. He also caught a 40-yard TD pass in that game. You can bet MSU’s defense will have their eyes fixed on Sincere on Friday. The Bobcats can’t afford to let him escape.
- Schreibeis and Daly made the biggest defensive play in the Bobcats’ 16-10 victory over Stony Brook in the second round last week, combining to sack QB Kyle Essington late in the fourth quarter. Schreibeis forced a fumble and Daly recovered it to seal the game. Defensive ends are really important when trying to account for an option game like Sam Houston State’s, so Schreibeis and Daly will be counted on to man the back side and prevent cut-back plays and big yards. They’ve held their own to this point. And while sack chances might be few and far between Friday night, their impact will be magnified.
4. SAM HOUSTON STATE KR/PR TREY DILLER
- The Bobcats’ special teams, especially their kick-coverage teams, have been really solid in the last half of this season, and it will be very important for them to continue it Friday. SHSU return man Trey Diller is dangerous in both the kickoff and punt return game. Diller averages 23.8 yards per kickoff return and 11.6 yards per punt return. It will be up to kickoff specialist A.J. Silva to continue to boot the ball into the end zone for touchbacks, and for punter Rory Perez to get good lift and hang time on his punts. If Diller does get a chance to return a few kicks, the Cats must stay in their lanes and make sure to keep containment. Diller can hurt you in the blink of an eye.
5. MONTANA STATE RB ORENZO DAVIS
- Bobcats coach Rob Ash describes Sam Houston State’s defense this way: “The best word to use is suffocating. They’re all over you. They pressure you with their DBs and load the box. They try to wipe you out at the beginning of every play.” MSU’s running game will be put to the test, and with top rusher Cody Kirk hobbled but available, a big onus could fall on backup Orenzo Davis. Davis slipped through some nice holes to pick up good yards in the win over Stony Brook, and may be called on again to gain important yards against a stingy defense. And if he gets loose, look out ...