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THE BASICS

TIME, DAY, PLACE: 3:05 p.m. Saturday, Hillsboro (Oregon) Stadium

STREAM: ESPN+ (Matt Richert, Scott Hermo)

RADIO: Bobcat Radio Network, msubobcats.com (Zach Mackey, Michael Rider, Dan Davies)

WEATHER: 80 degrees, sunny

COACHES

Montana State: Brent Vigen

RECORD: 2-1; YEAR: First

Vigen arrived at MSU after seven seasons as Wyoming’s offensive coordinator. He was an assistant in several roles, including offensive coordinator, before that at North Dakota State.

Portland State: Bruce Barnum

RECORD: 22-38; YEAR: Eighth

In 2018 and 2019 under Barnum, PSU increased its scoring output by more than 11 points per game (23.3 to 34.7) and cut opponent scoring by 13 points (43 to 30).

MONTANA STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH

0 — Tyrel Thomas — DB

Thomas is expected to make his season debut after missing three games due to injury. Portland State’s passing attack has been challenging, even for FBS opponents, so while he’ll have a limited role right away, Thomas could give the Bobcats a boost.

65 — Justus Perkins — OL

MSU head coach Brent Vigen said Portland State’s flex defense will be a challenge. Perkins, as well as the rest of the Bobcats’ offensive line, will have to be on the same page. Perkins has already shown improvement with three career starts.

3 — Amandre Williams — DL

Portland State has multiple threats to give MSU problems on the ground. Williams and MSU’s defensive line will look to contain them. Williams has also pressured opposing quarterbacks often, so he may have a good chance for a sack or two this week.

PORTLAND STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH

6 — Davis Alexander — QB

Alexander’s rushing and passing abilities have been formidable. He entered the season fourth all-time at PSU in total offense (7,234 yards), sixth in passing yards (6,140) and seventh in touchdowns (42) and completions (442). He’s also second on the team with 81 rushing yards this season.

14 — Anthony Adams — S

The Bobcats realize they need to pay close attention to Adams, who’s a threat to disrupt MSU’s passing game. He was a first-team all-American and first-team all-Big Sky selection as a sophomore in 2019. The 6-foot, 185-pound junior has nine tackles and a tackle for loss in 2021.

43 — VJ Malo — DT

At defensive tackle, Malo has had the freedom to line up at different spots in the formation and attack opposing offenses. The 6-foot-1, 270-pound defensive tackle already has a team-high 5.5 sacks through three games. Vigen noted MSU’s entire offensive line will have to look out for him.

KEY FACTS

- Montana State won its only previous game in Hillsboro, 43-23, in 2018. The Bobcats rushed for 323 yards, with Troy Andersen gaining 211, a Big Sky record for quarterbacks. MSU is 7-8 all-time in Portland.

- The most recent Bobcats team to carry a scoring differential of at least plus-77 into its fourth game was the 1966 squad (plus-92).

- The Bobcats have been at least an even in turnover margin in 13 straight games.

- Matthew McKay is one of five FCS quarterbacks with at least 600 passing yards and no interceptions. He’s the only player among those with more than 20 rushes and 50 rushing yards. He has 128 yards on 26 carries.

- The Bobcats have scored once on the ground in 36 straight games against FCS foes.

- The Bobcats have logged at least one takeaway in 28 straight games.

- Isaiah Ifanse’s 109 yards rushing against San Diego gave him 12 100-yard games. His 74-yard run last week was the third of his career over 70.

- Andersen’s interception return for a touchdown last week gave him 34 career TDs, second in MSU history.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Montana State has won back-to-back games entering Big Sky play. With a balanced offense and a defense that’s a threat to put points on the board, the Bobcats appear prepared for conference opponents.

Portland State will give MSU some difficulty with Davis Alexander at quarterback. But it likely won’t be enough for the Vikings to overcome MSU’s depth on either side of the ball. The Bobcats are poised to earn a Big Sky victory.

Pool’s pick: Montana State 35, Portland State 21

Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.

This article originally ran on bozemandailychronicle.com.

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