BOZEMAN — It's been 258 days since its final game of the 2022 season, and Montana State is set to take the field again in front of a packed Bobcat Stadium.
No. 3-ranked MSU will face Utah Tech at 6 p.m. on Saturday night in one of the most anticipated games each year — Gold Rush.
“The aura around Gold Rush has become more widely known," Bobcats coach Brent Vigen said. "The energy in that stadium, I know, is something that we are desiring come Saturday and anticipating. I know we will have several guys experiencing it for the first time, but many guys that have been in that atmosphere before. Just excited to allow our guys that opportunity to play in front of what I see as the greatest fans in the country.”
One of the players who has seen this crowd before is MSU quarterback Tommy Mellott. This will be his second Gold Rush game as a starter. He's excited for the energy this game brings, but more importantly he wants to channel it into execution.
“I can’t wait to see that ocean of gold when I walk out those doors," Mellott said. "But just being able to encapsulate that energy into being very disciplined as well because it’s very easy to just have all that energy and be flying around doing stuff, and not really taking care of what you’ve been learning and being detailed with those things you’ve learned throughout camp.”
Utah Tech, described as "active" by Vigen, made strides as a program last year with wins over Stephen F. Austin and Tarleton State, and kept competitive with Big 12-bound BYU.
“I think our guys are ready for this opportunity," Vigen said. "In Utah Tech, we have a program come in here that has made the transition, and I think they’re beyond the transition. Their play late in the season last year demonstrated that.”
Linebacker Nolan Askelson noted how the defense is ready for the challenge Utah Tech's mobile offense presents to them.
“They’re unique on offense for sure, lots of throws, they love to throw the ball, spread the field out and get guys in space," Askelson said. "So, I think it will be a great test for us. So obviously, pass defense is something we’ve needed to improve on since last year, so they’re a good team. They're going to come in here excited to play, give us their best shot. Excited for the challenge.”
The collective experience of the Bobcats is what might set them apart from the past couple seasons. Seasoned veterans are leading nearly every position group, which is key going into not just Game 1 but the entire season.
“I think we’re a little bit more of a veteran group," Mellott said. "Just the attention to detail was so much above where we’ve been before of each position group with the details of their craft.”
“Definitely just depth, I mean everyone just getting better in whatever way they needed to as far as physically, movement, technique kind of stuff," Askelson said. "But I just think everyone got dialed on the playbook, and that’s where you take a step from a young guy to being someone who can get on the field as long as your dialed on that playbook, and coaches can put you in there and trust you know what you’re doing.”
A group that’s stood out throughout fall camp is the tight ends. They’ll be the position group to watch out for come Saturday night. Vigen said Treyton Pickering and Derryk Snell provide a level of comfort and unique skill sets for the quarterbacks.
“He would be right at the top of the list, if you said, 'Who had the most impressive fall camp relative to the way they were?' It would be Treyton," Vigen said. "I think what those two guys give Tommy and Sean (Chambers), they know where they are on the field. They can put the ball in tight spaces and those guys are going to come up with it.”