Greg Filer III , MSU Football (copy)

Montana State cornerback Greg Filer III runs drills during fall camp on Aug. 7 at Dyche Field.

THE BASICS

TIME, DAY, PLACE: 2 p.m. Saturday, Bobcat Stadium

TELEVISION: ABC Montana/SWX Billings (Chris Byers, Mike Callaghan, Aunica Koch)

RADIO: Bobcat Radio Network (Jason Alvine, Zach Mackey, Dan Davies)

WEATHER: 45 degrees, sunny

COACHES

Montana State: Jeff Choate

RECORD: 22-19; YEAR: Fourth

Choate came to MSU after several stints as a position coach at FBS schools including Washington, Washington State, Florida and Boise State. He led the Bobcats to their first playoff appearance and victory in five years last season.

Sacramento State: Troy Taylor

RECORD: 3-2; YEAR: First

Taylor was Utah’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for two seasons. In 2018, the Utes averaged 28.7 points and 396 yards per game, winning the Pac-12 South title for the first time in school history.

MONTANA STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH

47 - Callahan O’Reilly - LB

Sacramento State’s is a versatile offense and will require Montana State to cover a lot of territory. At middle linebacker, O’Reilly will have to help stop both the run and the pass. Starting last week, O’Reilly thrived, totaling a team-high 16 tackles to go with a tackle for loss. With Josh Hill and Michael Jobman both missing from this week’s depth chart, O’Reilly will be leaned on again.

1 - Greg Filer III - CB

Filer has missed the first six weeks of the season after an injury during fall camp. The 2018 all-Big Sky honorable mention and 2019 all-conference preseason pick will be back to take on Sac State, however. The Bobcats have struggled defending the pass at times, particularly against No. 1 receivers. Filer, who rose up MSU’s depth chart last season, could help.

10 - Travis Jonsen - WR

Jonsen has been a player to watch all season. Playing at wildcat quarterback, Jonsen is now 10th in the Big Sky with 53.4 rushing yards per game but leads those top-10 players with 7 yards per carry. As the Bobcats continue to deal with injuries at running back and inconsistencies in the passing game, Jonsen will likely remain a focal point of their offense.

SACRAMENTO STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH

5 - Kevin Thomson - QB

Thomson has passed for 1,475 yards while completing 63.8% of his passes. He averages 7.5 yards per attempt. He’s also thrown for 16 touchdowns and been intercepted three times. Meanwhile, he’s rushed for 172 yards and three touchdowns. The Bobcats will have to stay keyed on him throughout the game because of his ability both on designed runs and on scrambles.

Sacramento St Football

Sacramento State quarterback Kevin Thomson looks to pass against Arizona State on Sept. 6 in Tempe, Ariz.

33 - Elijah Dotson - RB

Dotson leads the Hornets both in rushes and catches, and as a result, all-purpose yards and scoring. He’s run for 198 yards and averages 4.3 yards per carry to go with two touchdowns. He’s also caught 33 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns. Considering how the Hornets utilize him, the Bobcats will have to remain disciplined to contain him.

95 - Dariyn Choates - DL

MSU head coach Jeff Choate identified Choates as a player the Bobcats have to game plan for. The senior has totaled eight tackles for loss, 2.5 of them being sacks. He’s also forced three fumbles and broken up two passes. MSU’s strength has been its offensive line, but that unit will have to continue to be stout against Choates and Sac State’s defensive front.

BY THE NUMBERS

2 — Montana State wide receiver and wildcat quarterback Travis Jonsen has rushed for two touchdowns in each of the past two games.

5 — MSU is on its first five-game win streak since starting the 2012 season with six straight victories.

13 — MSU has at least one takeaway in its last 13 regular season outings.

41 — Left tackle Mitch Brott’s 41 straight starts is two from moving into the top six streaks and the top 10 in total starts at MSU.

96.8 — Sacramento State leads the Big Sky in rushing defense with 96.8 yards a game allowed.

113 — Wide receiver Kevin Kassis’ 113 career receptions is 14 from MSU’s all-time top 10 list.

1,002 — The Bobcats have rushed for 1,002 yards in the last three games, with only 69 of them from starting running back Isaiah Ifanse.

KEY FACTS

- Montana State is 17-7 against Sacramento State in a series which began in the 1964 Camellia Bowl.

- Sac State’s 41-38 win in 2016 snapped a 10-game Bobcat win streak. The Hornets won their first game in Bozeman, 19-17 in 1991, but have lost nine straight.

- The Bobcats are 2-0 against Sac State in Bobcat Stadium’s current configuration.

- Bryce Sterk’s next sack pushes him into the MSU single-season top 10. He currently has 8.5.

MONTANA STATE KEYS TO VICTORY

1. Passing rhythm

Montana State has been excellent for many reasons, but its passing attack hasn’t been one. The Bobcats haven’t needed to turn to the air many times this season because running the ball has worked out so well. But Sacramento State is the best FCS team the Bobcats have seen this season according to MSU head coach Jeff Choate. If they’re going to beat the Hornets, Bobcats quarterback Tucker Rovig will need to make a positive impact.

2. Turnover battle

The Bobcats have succeeded by running the ball, not coughing it up and then taking it away on defense. But the Hornets do not commit turnovers often. In fact, they’re second in the Big Sky with a plus-4 turnover margin as they’ve forced 11 and given up seven. The Bobcats, meanwhile, are plus-3 with nine takeaways and six turnovers. They must prioritize ball security against a team that focuses on forcing fumbles and interceptions.

3. Answering back

The Bobcats have yet to gain control of a game and keep control, and that’s because their opponents have either scored early or have scored consecutive touchdowns to come back as Cal Poly did last week. The Bobcats need to find ways to break up those runs of unanswered points, especially against a dynamic Sac State team which can hurt MSU in multiple ways on offense and defense.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Sacramento State absolutely has a good chance of winning this game. Montana State has been inconsistent in its last few wins. But the Bobcats have also been so overwhelming when they play well that other teams haven’t caught up. They probably can’t afford to cough up much of a lead against the Hornets, however.

The Bobcats can’t allow themselves to go into cruise control, but in their homecoming game, they should have plenty of motivation. Their offensive line is strong enough to negate the strength of Sac State’s defensive front seven, and MSU will find ways to minimize Sac State’s passing attack.

Pool’s pick: Montana State 35, Sacramento State 31

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