Rapid reaction: No. 4 Montana State 55, No. 5 William & Mary 7

Montana State gears up for 'under the lights' FCS quarterfinal against William & Mary
Posted at 11:15 PM, Dec 09, 2022

BOZEMAN — For the third time since 2019, Montana State has advanced to the semifinal round of the FCS playoffs.

With a 55-7 Friday-night romp over William & Mary, the Bobcats won their 20th consecutive game at home and will be one of the last four teams standing when they face either South Dakota State or Holy Cross next week for a berth in the title game.

Quarterback Tommy Mellott accounted for four touchdowns and running back Isaiah Ifanse ran for 162 yards to became the school’s all-time rushing leader as the Bobcats moved into the semis for the second straight season.

William & Mary’s offense, quarterbacked by Darius Wilson, was bottled up all night. The Tribe finished with 197 total yards and only nine first downs. The Tribe didn't score until late in the fourth quarter.

MSU’s special teams also showed up, as Taco Dowler returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown, Marqui Johnson had a long kickoff return and Blake Glessner made two field goals.

Glessner, who has been virtually automatic of late, drilled a 50-yard field goal late in the second quarter to put MSU ahead 27-0. It was the longest field goal in Bobcat playoff history and gave Glessner 130 points, breaking the school’s single-season mark.

With the win, Montana State improved to 12-1. William & Mary finished its season with an 11-2 record.

Turning point: Punter Bryce Leighton was used twice in the first quarter after not punting on 25 consecutive drives. But a 22-yard TD run by Mellott and a 68-yard touchdown scamper by Ifanse ignited the offense in the first half and gave the Cats a 17-0 advantage that sent William & Mary reeling from there.

Stat of the game: With his 68-yard TD run in the second quarter, Ifanse broke the career rushing record at Montana State. The run gave Ifanse 3,690 yards, surpassing the previous record of 3,646 yards by Ryan Johnson (1998-2002).

Ifanse will be able to build on his record next week — and next season.

Bobcat game balls: RB Isaiah Ifanse (offense). Ifanse was worked back into the lineup last week following a long recovery from knee surgery. He especially looked like his old self against William & Mary with 162 yards on just 11 carries and two TDs.

DB Ty Okada (defense). Okada spearheaded the effort of Montana State’s defense — which wasn’t on the field much — with four tackles (two for loss), a sack, a pass breakup and a QB hurry.

PR Taco Dowler (special teams). Dowler was one of several players on MSU’s special teams to deliver. Dowler had 152 yards on seven punt returns, an average of 22 yards per attempt, and a 78-yard score.

What's next: Fourth-seeded Montana State will face either top-seeded South Dakota State (11-1) or No. 8 Holy Cross (12-0) in the semifinals next week. SDSU and Holy Cross square off Saturday at 10 a.m. Mountain time on ESPN.