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Big Sky notes: Chambers shines in first start for Cats

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | October 4, 2022 11:50 PM

It likely raised eyebrows when Sean Chambers transferred to Montana State from Wyoming, where he had played quite a bit and where second-year Bobcat coach Brent Vigen had been offensive coordinator.

It probably touched some nerves when Chambers repeatedly took over the offensive controls from Butte’s Tommy Mellott in the red zone — a reversal of last season, before Mellott took over as starter late in 2021.

Look at Chambers now: He earned the Stats Perform offensive player of the week award after his first start. He rushed for 203 yards and passed for another 227 in MSU’s 41-27 win over UC Davis Saturday.

Is this a surprise? Maybe. But Chambers was a team captain for the Cowboys in 2021, led them past the Bobcats early in the season, made 19 starts and had six 100-yard rushing games in the brown and gold.

According to @FCS_Stats, Chambers is the sixth quarterback at the FCS level to pull off the 200-200 feat. Last time it happened was 2018, when two did it: Prairie View A&M’s Jalen Morton and Montana Grizzly QB Dalton Sneed (against Sacramento State). Sneed is the only other Big Sky player to do it.

“I think if you put up numbers like he did, you’re more apt to get those kinds of rewards,” Vigen said during his Monday press conference, ahead of the Bobcats’ homecoming game with Idaho State. “A good chunk of his rushing yards, he was untouched. But he played well. He had good command and threw the ball well really in his first test.”

No indication came Tuesday that Mellott, who suffered a concussion against Eastern Washington on Sept. 24, has been cleared to return. On Monday he hadn’t, Vigen confirmed.

“Head injuries are obviously very serious, and each one, the recovery is its own recovery,” Vigen said. He later added: “Once (Mellott) is ready to play, he’s playing.”

Double-QBs

If Idaho State has to prepare for two quarterbacks, so likely will the Bobcats, since Sagan Gronauer could move back down the two-deep after starting in place of Hunter Hays last week.

Not that Gronauer played poorly in ISU’s 28-20 loss to the Grizzlies, especially late.

“He (Gronauer) was going out there with nothing to lose,” Vigen noted. “He’s not necessarily fighting for playing time; it’s there in his lap. He’s going to go out there and throw caution to the wind, so to speak.

“He can certainly make all the throws. He’s a little bit different than Hays, certainly, and Tyler (Vander Wall) that started the season. That changes them a little bit and I thought they adjusted well to his skill set.”

The thing that stood for Vigen is that ISU, while searching for its first win, came back so strong on the Griz after trailing 28-6. A fumble by Montana’s Lucas Johnson came as he neared the end zone trying to make it 35-6. Idaho State soon made it a one-score game.

“They’re an improving team and a team that’s really hungry,” Vigen said. “There’s new energy and new hunger. You can see them getting better and when you see Coach (Charlie) Ragle’s post-game comments you can see the pain. They’re finding their way, but there’s a tremendous amount of fight in them.”

Specially fortunate

Speaking of which, a close game for the Griz could have been closer, if a misplayed punt by UM’s Keelan White had been called a muff. At least one person with a good view thought it was muffed.

“He touched it, from what I saw,” Bengal receiver Xavier Guillory, who recovered the ball, told the Idaho State Journal. “With my instincts, I went to go grab it. Just being on the field, being there in person, I probably had the best view of it. It’s just an unfortunate situation. Not much we can do. Out of our control.”

Ragle treaded lightly when asked about it.

“I gotta be careful with what I say, but I’m assuming they made the right call. I certainly didn’t think it was,” Ragle told the ISJ. “We’re gonna look at it, but that’s the difference in the game. I mean, they go down and score on that play (Montana drove 84 yards to go up 21-6). If we get the ball we’re at the, what, 10, 15 yard line? They don’t have seven points. We have momentum. We probably have three, maybe a touchdown. I don’t know. There’s a lot of plays, but that’s a critical play that we’ll certainly want to look at, for sure.”

Five-and-oh

Montana coach Bobby Hauck was his usual succinct self in Pocatello, though he clearly wasn’t pleased with how the game ended.

“Rushing for 250, 50 percent on third downs, those are good things,” he said. “Again, it goes back to us giving the ball away, and them chucking the ball up on fourth down a couple times and they made the play and we didn’t. Good by them.”

Asked generally about keeping momentum and taking care of the ball, he answered, “It’s something we work on every day of the year, it’s not like they don’t understand it. We just have to play better.”

The Grizzlies have a bye this week, then bring in the Idaho Vandals, also playing solidly under first-year coach Jason Eck. Hauck said his message to the team was simple.

“W, man,” he said. “Five-and-oh, two-and-oh. That’s where we want to be.”

Swamped

Gunner Talkington didn’t have bad stats Sunday — 24-for-37 passing, for 250 yards and a touchdown — but the Eastern Washington Eagles still fell at Florida 52-17.

The twice-delayed game, once for Covid-19 and once for Hurricane Ian, saw the host Gators rack up 666 yards of offense.

Eastern gained 146 of its 411 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jakobie James and a 25-yard TD run by Kekoa Visperas with 3:17 left in the game.

From the Ashes

Matthew McKay, who started every regular-season game for MSU in 2021, then hit the transfer portal when he was benched in favor of Mellott, threw for 332 yards for No. 14 Elon in its 30-27 double-overtime win over Richmond Saturday.

McKay has thrown for 1,371 yards and 12 TDs against one interception for the 4-1 Phoenix, who have beaten two straight ranked opponents. The loss came 42-31 in the season opener at Vanderbilt.