BOZEMAN — Montana State starting quarterback Matthew McKay has entered the transfer portal, he announced Thursday on Twitter.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity Montana State provided me to play this game I love. For that, I want to thank Coach (Brent) Vigen and his staff. I am thankful for the connections I made with coaches, teammates, and the community of Bozeman,” McKay wrote. “I’m looking forward to wherever God leads me and am excited for the opportunities that await me!”
The news comes two days before MSU’s FCS playoff game against UT Martin at Bobcat Stadium. MSU confirmed McKay’s transfer but did not comment further. McKay, a redshirt junior who will be a graduate transfer, did not respond to requests for comment.
McKay is listed as the first-string QB on the latest depth chart, which was released Wednesday, but it’s doubtful that he would remain on the roster for as long as he’s in the portal, and all indications are he won’t be a member of the team Saturday (UPDATE 12/3: A source confirmed to 406mtsports.com that McKay will not be with the team Saturday). Whether he still has sport-specific privileges at MSU is unclear. Schools can reduce or stop giving athletics aid to athletes when they enter the portal.
“If student-athletes withdraw from the portal, the original school can return them to the roster and restore athletics aid if it chooses,” the NCAA wrote in a portal explainer.
The NCAA also says, “It is up to the individual school to develop policies regarding portal requests.”
Tucker Rovig, who started the last 12 games of the 2019 season, is listed as McKay’s backup, although the main MSU QB who’s played this fall besides McKay is Tommy Mellott.
McKay transferred from North Carolina State in December 2019 and has been MSU’s starting QB for all 11 games this season. The Bobcats (9-2) are No. 7 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 and the eighth seed in the playoffs.
McKay finished with 2,021 yards (183.7 per game), a 62.2% completion rate, 17 TDs and three interceptions, and he rushed for 316 yards and two TDs on 78 carries (4.1 yards per carry).
McKay started the season strong but struggled in the second half. He completed 55% of his passes, averaged 112.8 passing yards per game, threw four TDs, tossed two INTs and lost two fumbles in his final five games. In a 29-10 loss at Montana on Nov. 20, McKay finished 12 of 25 for 108 yards and a TD.
Last week, MSU offensive coordinator Taylor Housewright was asked why McKay has struggled recently.
“I don’t really want to answer that, to be honest with you,” Housewright said. “We’ll get better at that position.”
Vigen was asked a similar question during his press conference on Monday. Playing tougher defenses, such as UM’s, contributed to McKay’s poorer performance, Vigen said. The first-year head coach gave no indication that McKay would transfer before Saturday’s game.
“I think that game in Missoula more than any, he played on his heels, and we’ve got to be able to work that out of him,” Vigen said. “He owned that performance. He knew that wasn’t what we needed that day. With an extra week in the mix, you’d like to think we could work him through some of that.”
McKay transferred to MSU more than a year before Cats coach Jeff Choate left to become the co-defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach at Texas.
Mellott, a freshman from Butte, has completed 2 of 4 passes for 12 yards this season, and he’s rushed 36 times for 294 yards (8.2 ypc) and four touchdowns.
Rovig is 2 of 5 for 30 yards and a TD this fall. In 2019, the now-redshirt junior completed 61.6% of his passes for 1,969 yards, 15 TDs and five INTs.
“Guys are always competing at every position. It’s week to week,” Housewright said last week. “So I think as long as guys show up and compete and keep getting better, whoever we put out there is the best product.”
The season-opening 2019 starter, Casey Bauman, has been third string and battled injuries this fall.
Troy Andersen was an All-American QB in 2018. He played some offense in 2019 but was mainly an outside linebacker. He switched to inside linebacker this season, and the senior has appeared on offense for two plays, both in the Brawl of the Wild at running back.