Tommy Mellott

Three weeks after defeating South Dakota State in the FCS Championship Semifinal, Bobcat football is warming up in Frisco, Texas for the National Championship matchup against the North Dakota State Bison at 10 a.m. MT. The Bison are a perennial championship contender, and have ended both of MSU’s most recent FCS playoff bids. 

The Bobcats kicked off the 2021-22 football season with a near upset of Wyoming before winning their next nine straight games. Going into their annual matchup with arch-rival University of Montana, the Cats were ranked third in the nation. The Brawl of the Wild was a wake up call for the Cats, as the Griz took an early lead and ran with it, blowing out MSU 29-10. MSU finished the regular season with a 9-2 record and entered the FCS playoffs as the eighth seed, earning a first-round bye. With their eyes set on a national championship, the Cats knew they needed to make some changes if they were to survive the road ahead.

After a red hot start, the Cats offense began to sputter in the final weeks of the season, culminating with a complete breakdown against Montana. Faced with win-or-go-home situations for the remainder of the season, the Cats decided to make a change at quarterback, promoting freshman Tommy Mellott to the starting role and benching Matthew McKay, who started every game of the regular season. McKay promptly entered the NCAA transfer portal and was dropped from the roster. Mellott, who had primarily been used as a rushing threat up on designed plays until the playoffs, torched the UT Martin defense as he ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns in his first start. Mellott’s success continued in the quarterfinals as he ran for two more scores, tossed six completions for 165 yards and two touchdowns and even added a receiving touchdown on a trick-play. In the semifinal game against South Dakota State, Mellott either threw or ran for five of MSU’s scores, earning the nickname “Tommy Touchdown” from Bobcat fans. Mellott’s success has been a huge factor in the re-awakening of the Bobcat offense, and his continued production will be crucial if the Cats are to claim their first national championship victory since 1984. 

North Dakota State presents a formidable and familiar challenge for the Bobcats, and specifically for Head Coach Brent Vigen. Vigen played for NDSU from 1993 to 1997 and coached for the team with various roles from 1998 through 2013. Vigen was the offensive coordinator for the Bison for their three consecutive FCS championship victories in 2011, 2012 and 2013. “[The Bison] do things how championship teams do them. They run the football, they stop the run, play really good special teams… They’re the type of team you have to beat. They’re not gonna beat themselves,” Vigen said in a press conference ahead of the game.

North Dakota State’s only loss this season came against South Dakota State, a team MSU defeated in its most recent game. MSU has faced NDSU three times in the FCS playoffs and lost all three matchups. Today’s game presents a phenomenal opportunity for the Cats to cap off their most successful season in nearly 40 years while erasing any doubts about their status as a national powerhouse.

President Waded Cruzado and NDSU President Dean Bresciani have made a wager that will see the president of the losing university wear the colors of the victor. The bookstores of the two universities are also competing by attempting to sell more championship t-shirts than the other store. The loser of the contest will fund a textbook scholarship for the opposing store. 

The game kicks off at 10 a.m. MT on ESPN2. There will also be Bobcat fans gathering at free watch parties across the country for the game, a list of which can be found on the MSU Alumni Foundation’s website.