BOZEMAN — This Saturday, No. 6 Montana State will host North Dakota State in the second round of the FCS playoffs. They're two teams with a lot of history.
Overall, MSU leads the series 21-16 and is 14-4 at home against NDSU, but the Bison are on a current four-game win streak against the Bobcats, with the most recent victory coming in the 2021 FCS championship.
This NDSU win streak started in 2010 when current Bobcats head coach Brent Vigen was the offensive coordinator of the green and gold.
"What I remember about that day is it was really cold, and it was a really raucous crowd," Vigen recalled. "That thought never left me. You know, I think as this job came open, that day had a lot of impression on what the crowd could do here."
MSU is meeting the Bison for the first time since the 2021 FCS championship, a game the Bobcats lost 38-10 in Vigen’s first season as head coach. Vigen acknowledged how much the team has grown since that game as a group and individually as players.
"I think you have to recognize how far a lot of our individuals have come since then," he said. "And I think you look at it as a great opportunity versus the flip side of how we’re going to do this. I think it’s the optimism versus the pessimism when it comes down to that."
The team recognizes their advantage in playing the Bison in Bozeman this time around, hoping to end the four-game win streak NDSU has built since 2010. The Bison also ended the Bobcats' seasons in the playoffs in 2018 and 2019.
"We’ve definitely been talking about it, like, 'Oh, what happens if they come here?'" Bobcats linebacker Danny Uluilakepa said of the team's mindset when finding out they would host NDSU. "So, we’ve got something to prove for sure."
The Bobcats are on a 26-game home win streak, the longest active streak in NCAA Division I football.
"Oh, I’m so excited," Uluilakepa said. "It’s a different environment over here, so coming here to play, it’s a lot harder."
Earlier this season, MSU lost a narrow game to NDSU’s rival, No. 1 South Dakota State, on the road. It was a game of physicality that was one overturned touchdown away from a Bobcats win against the reigning national champion.
"I think that the Saturday back in September when we did go to Brookings, I think we had closed it," Vigen said, answering a question about the gap between Montana State and the top competitors of the Missouri Valley Conference. "I think we played really physical that day. I would say in the conference season, we didn’t play a couple games as physical as that day. So here’s another test, I think that’s the biggest thing."
The Bobcats and Bison kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday in Bobcat Stadium, and the game will be streamed on ESPN+.