MSU Football v. Southern Utah (copy)

Montana State running back Lane Sumner and wide receiver Tyrone Marshall celebrate a touchdown by Sumner last week at Bobcat Stadium.

GREELEY, Colorado — Troy Andersen was nonchalant. His teammates went ballistic.

The junior linebacker came screaming in on a blitz, wrapped up Northern Colorado quarterback Jacob Knipp and sent him to the ground. Andersen stood up like he’s made the play countless times, which he has. But his Montana State teammates yelled in his face in exhilaration, others hit him on the helmet in jubilation.

This was early in the first quarter. The Bobcats defense commanded the outcome of the game from the beginning. It might also dictate the course of the season.

No. 12-ranked MSU limited nearly everything UNC tried on offense as the Bobcats beat the Bears 45-14 on Saturday at Nottingham Field.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Defense dominant

The Bears (2-8, 2-4 Big Sky) had crossed midfield and were trying to score their first offensive touchdown of the day. Their drive was starting to stall, so they went for it on fourth down.

Knipp stood in shotgun, handled the snap and handed off to running back Milo Hall. He lowered his head and barreled forward.

He didn’t see MSU linebacker Josh Hill shoot the gap. Hill stuffed Hall and prevented the drive from continuing.

The Bobcats were stout in their run defense and suffocating in their pass defense. UNC rushed for 44 yards on 21 carries and totaled 289 yards of offense on 12 first downs.

UNC’s only touchdown of the game until the fourth quarter came on an interception of MSU quarterback Tucker Rovig that was returned for a touchdown.

Limiting Knipp

MSU head coach Jeff Choate said Knipp was a prototypical passer with eye-popping arm strength. But MSU gave him few open targets. He completed 27 of 38 passes for 220 yards, a touchdown and an interception, most of that production coming in the second half of a game already decided by intermission

The Bobcats’ pressure was key. Knipp often had little time to throw and was sacked twice. Andersen blitzed several times, either knocking Knipp off his rhythm or forcing UNC’s offensive line to shift toward him. And that opened up opportunities for others like defensive end Bryce Sterk, who added another to his total of 10.5 sacks this season. Andersen, meanwhile is up to 5.5 sacks, all in the last four games.

Mix-and-match offense

The Bobcats showed early what they wanted to do on offense.

On the very first play, Andersen lined up behind center with three other backs behind him in a stacked I formation. On MSU’s first scoring play less than five minutes in, Andersen caught a shotgun snap, faked a run, jumped and passed to defensive lineman Jason Scrempos for a touchdown.

The Bobcats strayed from their traditional run game, and it worked.

Wide receiver Tyrone Marshall was handed the ball three times in the second half on jet sweeps, and he ripped off 64 yards. Willie Patterson also nearly scored on a handoff. Davine Tullis also also took a handoff for 45 yards in the fourth quarter.

All of this helped set up MSU’s normal plays. Andersen scored on an 11-yard rush, one where he faked a jet sweep handoff and UNC bit on the play action. Andersen easily waltzed into the end zone.

To start the third quarter, Logan Jones bolted around the left edge of UNC’s defense for a 57-yard gain. That set up his 1-yard TD run that was out of a traditional I formation with Rovig under center.

If it wasn’t already, Callahan O’Reilly finished the game off. He caught a direct snap on a fake punt and charged downfield for a 73-yard touchdown.

The Bobcats didn’t need to score points in a traditional way. They just needed to score points.

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