Isaiah Ifanse

Isaiah Ifanse runs with the ball during Montana State's 43-23 victory over Portland State on Saturday in Hillsboro, Ore.

HILLSBORO, Ore. — From a competitive standpoint, the previous two weeks were tough on Troy Andersen.

Encumbered by an injured left hand that required the use of a bulky cast, Andersen was limited to only a few snaps in games against South Dakota State and Wagner. Though he did his best to contribute, it wasn’t enough to douse his fire.

Thus, upon his return to (relatively) full health Saturday against Portland State, Andersen played like a man on a mission.

Following Andersen’s lead, MSU’s offense scored on seven consecutive possessions on the way to a 43-23 Big Sky Conference road victory at Hillsboro Stadium. Andersen started at quarterback, and rushed for a career-high 211 yards with rugged toughness and breakaway speed.

As a team, the Bobcats piled up 323 rushing yards. Andersen also threw for 107 yards without an interception and accounted for three total touchdowns.

“It was fun to be back, to be able to play the full game,” said Andersen, who was injured during a Week 1 home victory over Western Illinois. “Standing on the sidelines for the other (games) you just wish you could be in there helping the team. So to be able to come back out and help the team get a win, it was fun.”

Tucker Rovig also took some snaps at QB intermittently with Andersen playing running back. Rovig completed both of his pass attempts, one of which was a 32-yard pass to Andersen down the sideline in the second quarter led to a three-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Ifanse that gave MSU a lead it never relinquished.

Andersen became MSU's first 200-yard rusher since the 2011 season, when Cody Kirk ran for 202 yards in a victory over Northern Colorado.

Near the end of the third quarter, Andersen ran for a career-long 66-yard touchdown that put the stamp on the victory. Andersen beat the Vikings' defense to the left edge, turned the corner and raced past everybody.

“We had run that play a couple times before, and it had bounced a couple times before," Andersen explained. "I was able to just get outside and be able to outrun them on that one. I was just hoping I didn’t get caught.”

Kevin Kassis had the same thought on his 53-yard catch-and-run touchdown connection with Andersen in the second quarter. Under pressure from a blitz, Andersen fired the ball over the middle to Kassis, who hauled it in and outraced the defense down the middle of the field.

Kassis said the play “was a concept that we actually got from the College of Idaho,” which was PSU’s opponent last week. “Just a man-beater. We knew they were going to play man in that situation, and luckily it worked.

“Once I caught it I was like, ‘Oh wow. This is going.’ As soon as I saw that middle open up … hopefully I don’t get caught. Troy doesn’t have that problem.”

Ifanse added 100 yards on the ground, with two touchdowns, as part of the Bobcats' rushing effort. Tyler Natee also scored on a short TD run for MSU.

But Andersen did most of the dirty work, charging forward on a series of designed QB runs that took its toll on Portland State’s defense.

“The quarterback run game is something that had shown up and hurt these guys, and certainly having a threat like Troy is going to be a major bonus for us,” Bobcats coach Jeff Choate said.

“We rushed for over 400 yards on them at home last year, we knew that they were going to have their hackles up and be ready to try and stop the run, but that’s our DNA, that’s what we do.”

Andersen played sparingly at both running back and outside linebacker against SDSU and Wagner while Rovig started at quarterback. Rovig threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the latter contest, a 47-24 victory, which led to the notion that Choate and the coaching staff might go with the hot hand against Portland State.

Now, after one Big Sky game, it appears that the Bobcats have a nice mix at quarterback with a healthy Andersen and a more-comfortable Rovig.

Choate indicated Saturday — and has indicated it since before the season began — that MSU is most comfortable giving the majority of the QB snaps to Andersen, if only because of the style of offense that is in place.

But there are always options.

“It creates a lot of continuity for us and clearly he’s a guy that we have a lot of confidence in (and) his teammates have a lot of confidence in,” Choate said of Andersen. “But now we have two guys that we feel really good about.

“I think it puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses when you’ve got Troy in multiple positions, and Tucker gives us the freedom to be able to do that.”

It was MSU's 10th win in the last 11 matchups against Portland State. The Bobcats improved to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in league play. PSU fell to 1-3 and 0-1.

Montana State will next host Eastern Washington (3-1, 1-0), which trounced Cal Poly 70-17 in its Big Sky opener on Saturday.

NOTES: LB Chad Kanow was in the Bobcats’ starting lineup, which was his first game action since injuring his knee in fall camp. … MSU’s defense had three QB sacks — two by Bryce Sterk and another by Jacob Hadley. … Vikings star TE Charlie Taumoepeau had three catches for 50 yards. … PSU QB Davis Alexander, who was running away from pressure for most of the day, put up 212 passing yards, and rushed for 71 yards and two TDs.

Email Greg Rachac at greg.rachac@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @gregrachac

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