MISSOULA – Denarius McGhee threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kruiz Siewing, Rory Perez made three field goals and Montana State beat Montana 16-7 on Saturday for a share of its third straight Big Sky Conference title.
McGhee was 26 of 47 for 247 yards for the Bobcats (10-1, 7-1) in front of a record crowd of 26,210 fans at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Montana State tied for the conference title with Eastern Washington and Cal Poly. Eastern Washington received the conference’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs because of its 27-24 victory over Montana State on Oct. 13.
Perez gave Montana State a 13-7 lead with a 38-yard field goal midway through the third quarter, and completed the scoring with a 22-yarder with 2:32 left in the game.
“That last one wasn’t very long, but it was still a crucial kick,” Montana State coach Rob Ash said. “There was a lot of tension on that. We knew that was probably a game-winner.”
Montana (5-6, 3-5) finished with its first losing record since going 3-8 in 1985. The Grizzlies also lost to the Bobcats for only the third time in Missoula since 1986.
“We probably played as well as we can,” Montana coach Mick Delaney said. “I’m not disappointed. I’m proud of these kids. Sometimes things just don’t turn out the way you want, no matter how hard you work.”
Montana State took a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter on McGhee’s scoring pass to Siewing.
“I thought I was going to pull the safety in the corner with me and then John Ellis was going to be open for the touchdown,” said Siewing, who finished with four catches for 41 yards. “Luckily, they went with him and I was wide open. It was kind of surreal.”
The Bobcats opened the scoring on Perez’s 42-yard field goal, and Montana made it 7-3 on Peter Nguyen’s 47-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.
McGhee also had 10 carries for 46 yards, Cody Kirk led the Bobcats in rushing with 55 yards on 22 carries, and Brian Flotkoetter had seven catches for 84 yards.
Nguyen ran for 112 yards on 13 carries, and Shay Smithwick-Hann was 24 of 43 for 190 yards.
“There’s a reason why they’re No. 2 in the nation,” Smithwick-Hann said. “Our defense played a great game. Offensively, we just didn’t do the things we needed to do to win this game, and that’s what it comes down to.”
After running for 127 yards in the first, the Grizzlies were limited to 41 in the second.
Montana State defensive end Caleb Schreibeis had 16 tackles and a sack, and linebacker Jody Owens had 12 stops and two tackles for losses.
“We have an unbelievable senior class,” McGhee said. “They said we would not be denied today. They said we would not walk out of here without a win and we willed our way to a win today. It’s a great feeling that we beat these guys in their stadium.”
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