BOZEMAN — It should come as no surprise that Montana State opened in Vegas as a 21½-point underdog ahead of its Week 1 contest at Big 12 foe Texas Tech. That’s how these FCS-vs.-FBS games usually go.
But the Bobcats say there’s no added burden on their shoulders as they get set to travel to Lubbock, Texas, for Saturday’s tilt, which is scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m. Mountain Time at 60,000-seat Jones AT&T Stadium.
“It’s an opportunity for us to get our brand on a national scale against a Power Five opponent, and I think it’s important for us to put ourselves out there and to challenge ourselves,” MSU coach Jeff Choate said Monday during the first of his weekly in-season press conferences at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
“We understand the realities of this, too. The pressure is really not on us. I think the expectation when you play a game like this is that whoever the opponent is at the Power Five level should be able to handle whoever they’re bringing in.
“So we just kind of take this approach that it’s about us. We’ve got to control the controllables.”
Unknown variables have a way of permeating through a season opener every year. Turnovers, penalties, bad tackling and other general miscues always seem to have a hand in the outcome.
How the Bobcats handle themselves in a difficult environment will factor into their overall performance. Choate knows this.
And Choate reiterated what he said last week: That this game is less about the Red Raiders — who are led by first-year coach Matt Wells — and more about the Bobcats.
“I have a ton of respect for Matt Wells. I think he did a tremendous job at Utah State,” Choate said. “I’ve known Matt for a while. We’ve actually talked a couple of different times about some staff things. I think he was an excellent choice for Texas Tech.”
“Nowhere on our pyramid does it say that we have to beat Texas Tech to achieve our team goals,” Choate said. “We’ve got to go down there and compete our tails off.”
Redshirt freshman Casey Bauman is set to make his first career start at quarterback for the Bobcats, and Choate acknowledged that the Sumas, Washington, product will be feeling his nerves at least until he takes his first snap.
Bauman, though, won’t be the only player under MSU’s internal microscope. Choate said he expects a slew of different players to see the field, and that will perhaps be most evident at inside linebacker.
Nolan Askelson and Josh Hill were named the starters at those positions with the release of the team’s Week 1 depth chart on Sunday, but Callahan O’Reilly, Michael Jobman, Blake Flovin, Walker Cozzie and Chad Kanow were all part of a tight competition through the summer and into fall camp.
“You’re going to see a variety of guys play. It’s not like you’re just going to see one guy out there,” Choate said. “We need (to see) a lot of guys on film, and I’m sure coach Wells is saying the same thing.
“We’ve got to see some of these other guys play. That’s how you’re going to get better, that’s how you’re going to be able to truly get a gauge of where they’re at.”
As for the atmosphere the Bobcats are walking into, Texas Tech boasts an impressive home-field advantage with a 333-159-13 all-time record at Jones AT&T Stadium, a winning percentage of .659 since the facility opened in 1947.
When asked, Choate said having FBS dropdowns like Travis Jonsen, Bryce Sterk, Jason Scrempos, Amandre Williams and Jahque Alleyne on MSU’s roster can serve as an advantage in terms of knowing what to expect.
In the end, it’s about what happens between the white lines.
“Certainly (it helps) having guys that have been at Oregon, Virginia Tech, Washington, etc., that understand that the game is the game once the whistle blows,” Choate said.
“You want to enjoy the pageantry. Really, that’s why you do it. I talked about us being excited for the opportunity and appreciative of the opportunity. Part of that is to go to a place like that and to be able to see it (and say), ‘OK, this is pretty cool.’
“But you can’t be intimidated by it. You’ve just got to roll with it. You’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to kind of have that ambiance drill where you’re taking it all in and smell the hot dogs cooking and the barbecue, and once the whistle blows let’s go play ball. Get your eyes where they need to be, give great effort and let’s see what happens.”