BOZEMAN — Montana State's defense put on a show Saturday afternoon with four takeaways at their homecoming game to propel the Bobcats to victory over Cal Poly, 45-7.
"Those takeaways, in particular, those down on their end were huge, and we were able to do enough things to build up a 35-nothing lead at halftime," Bobcats head coach Brent Vigen said.
Cornerback Tyrel Thomas made his return to the field after missing the first five games of the season recovering from knee surgery and didn't miss a beat. With a little over a minute left in the first quarter, Cal Poly's Jaden Jones threw an intended pass to Evan Burkhart, but a hard hit by Jeffrey Manning Jr. bounced the ball up into the air, which was intercepted by Thomas.
"He made a heck of an interception," Vigen added. "It was just good to have his presence back out there. Tyrel is one of our better competitors for sure, and getting him healthy took a little bit longer than we may have hoped, but good to have him back out there making plays."
With Montana State taking over the ball on Cal Poly's 20-yard line, all it took was three plays for running back Isaiah Ifanse to punch it from seven yards out to give the Bobcats a 14-0 lead.
With nine minutes left in the first half, Jeffrey Manning Jr. snagged Montana State's second takeaway of the afternoon off a deep ball downfield intended for Burkhart once again, which eventually led to another Ifanse touchdown.
The other two takeaways came in the second half, which was highlighted by Callahan O'Reilly's 39-yard pick-six for a career first. Linebacker Tadan Gilman notched the final interception of the game in the fourth quarter.
"We preached takeaways all week at practice, so to get out there and get one always feels good," linebacker Callahan O'Reilly smiled.
On the offensive side of the ball, Ifanse led the way on the ground with two rushing touchdowns for 58 yards on 13 carries. However, the play of the game came from Butte's Tommy Mellot who broke loose for a 74-yard keeper to record his first-ever collegiate touchdown.
“Tommy’s got that ability," Vigen said. "I think we’ve said it every week in some facet that Tommy Mellot is one of our better playmakers, and we’ll continue to find ways to get him involved. Really pleased with what Tommy brings to this team, and we’ll look for him to do more and more of that.”
Looking ahead to next week the Bobcats will travel to Ogden, Utah for a tough test against Weber State. Kick-off is scheduled for Friday night at 8 p.m. MT.