BOZEMAN — Way back in fall camp, Montana State coach Jeff Choate challenged 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver Lance McCutcheon to assert himself as a more reliable deep threat.
At the time, Choate said he told McCutcheon he was “a big receiver that doesn’t play big.”
Entering Saturday’s second-round playoff game against Albany, it had been weeks since McCutcheon had caught a pass in MSU’s offense. It had been even longer since he’d been in the end zone.
But McCutcheon broke out against Albany, catching a pair of deep touchdown passes from quarterback Tucker Rovig in the second half of the Bobcats’ 47-21 victory.
The TD catches were typical for a receiver of McCutcheon’s size and length.
The first score, a 49-yarder down the left sideline, came as McCutcheon out-jumped defensive back Joe Casale, caught the ball with one arm, slipped the tackle attempt and jogged into the end zone to give MSU a 33-7 lead.
His second score came on MSU’s next possession, a 42-yard pass down the right sideline. McCutcheon was one on one with cornerback Dante Mount and was able to secure another jump ball at the front pylon to put the Bobcats up 40-7.
They were the first touchdown catches of the year for McCutcheon, a product of Bozeman High School.
“You’re clearly happy for the entire team, but Lance has that capability,” MSU coach Jeff Choate said. “And for him to go out and do it on a big stage, I was just really happy for him and really proud of him, and really proud of the way Tucker gave him chance to go make plays.”
Paying coach back
Damien Washington is Montana State’s most veteran cornerback, having played a key role in coverage for the past four years.
But for as many snaps as Washington has played, interceptions have been hard to come by.
Washington didn't intercept his first career pass until earlier this season in a Week 3 win at Western Illinois. But the ball found him on Saturday, and Washington had two picks against Albany quarterback Jeff Undercuffler on consecutive possessions.
The second interception was most meaningful, as it came in the red zone with the Great Danes looking to cut their deficit to nine points. Instead, they got nothing.
“That’s been my thing for the past four years here, finishing plays,” Washington said. “I’m always in good position, it’s just going out there and putting the cherry on top. Go get a pick.”
“He’s been owing me those interceptions for four years now,” Choate joked afterward, “so it’s about time I got paid back.”
‘A fearless guy’
The Bobcats began the season with safety Jahque Alleyne and receiver Kevin Kassis as their primary punt returners, but Coy Steel took over the job at midseason and hasn’t looked back.
Steel burned Albany multiple times on Saturday, returning four punts for 105 yards. Steel had returns of 30, 41 and 34 yards, setting up short fields for MSU’s offense. Steel had room to maneuver while fielding kicks from Great Danes punter Joey Mitchell.
“Coy’s a fearless guy,” Choate said. “One of the things that happens with any team that’s coming from near sea-level to altitude, the ball is going to carry further. Their punter was kicking well beyond his normal average, and I think sometimes out-kicked the coverage and created some seams.
“But Coy’s a fearless guy and he’s got the right mentality as a punt returner, for sure.”
It was part of the Bobcats’ strong performance on special teams, which also included a blocked punt by running back Isaiah Ifanse that resulted in a safety. Logan Jones also had 93 yards on three kickoff returns.