BOZEMAN, Mont. – The talk all week from UC Davis centered upon the necessity of limiting big plays if the Aggies wanted any shot against the No. 5 team in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Slowing down DeNarius McGhee and the explosive Montana State offense is easier said than done.
The Bobcats' star quarterback found running back Shawn Johnson for a 47-yard touchdown on the game's fifth play. The two-time Big Sky Conference Offensive Most Outstanding Player threw to Johnson for another 45-yard gain to set up another touchdown before halftime.
McGhee accounted for six plays of 23 yards or more as Montana State (6-2, 4-0) had 437 yards total offense in a 34-17 victory over UC Davis on Saturday.
"I told the young man (McGhee) after the game that he is a winner," UC Davis coach Ron Gould said after his team is 3-2 in Big Sky, 3-6 overall. "He made three or four plays in there that were unbelievable. He'll definitely get my vote for offensive player of the year. The guy is just sensational."
McGhee's first touchdown put the Aggies in comeback mode for the rest of the game. But it was the Bobcats' drive before halftime that put the hosts in control.
UCD running back Gabe Manzanares (179 rushing yards) rushed for 36 of his 113 first-half total, including a 9-yard touchdown that pulled the Aggies within 14-10.
Montana State took over with 1:57 to play before halftime, and McGhee hit running back Cody Kirk for a 13-yard gain, then hit Johnson for the 45-yard gain to the UCD 12. Three Kirk rushes later and the Bobcats took a 21-10 lead into halftime.
"As I watched this game play out, all I could think was, 'Davis would be a very, very tough team to play if they were ahead,' " MSU coach Rob Ash said. "They do such a good job of milking the clock and controlling the ball.
"(Our) first touchdown was absolutely vital, and the one before half made sure (the Aggies) still had to play catchup."
Montana State drove 77 yards in 12 plays to finish the third quarter, highlighted by a 29-yard Kirk burst and an 11-yard touchdown on a reverse by Jon Ellis to build a 27-10 lead.
The Aggies' final touchdown came with 1:24 to play on a 2-yard pass from Randy Wright to Tom Hemmingsen, who finished with 81 receiving yards on 10 catches.
"I'm proud of our team and the effort, we just came up short," Gould said. "I was pleased with their effort, their passion, their drive, their energy. We will be back."