After losing its final game of the regular season, Montana State lost a chance to earn home-field advantage through the postseason.
However, the Bobcats still received a first-round bye in the FCS playoffs, announced Sunday on ESPNU’s selection show. They’ll host a game at 2 p.m. Dec. 4 at Bobcat Stadium.
“We’ve got a season in front of us, and we can't let this game define us,” Bobcats head coach Brent Vigen said after Saturday’s loss. “It hurts. It's the game that we obviously wanted and needed. We didn't get it and we’ll go back to work tomorrow after we figure out what that playoff fate is going to be.”
The Bobcats will host the winner of a first-round matchup between UT Martin (9-2) at Missouri State (8-3). If the Bobcats win, they could play at No. 1-seeded Sam Houston, the winner of the FCS spring season’s championship.
Missouri State’s head coach is Bobby Petrino, a Helena native who was head coach at Louisville, Arkansas and Western Kentucky. He also was the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 before going to Arkansas.
“We’ve got to do what we’ve been doing all year long. We’ve got to have a great week of preparation,” Petrino said during an interview on ESPNU.
“We’ve kind of had a chip on our shoulder all year long,” he added. “We feel like we’ve been underrated all year long. We’re just going to go out and play like we always have with a big chip on our shoulder.”
MSU won nine straight games during the regular season, including a victory at top-five Eastern Washington. But the season was bookended by a three-point loss at FBS Wyoming and a 29-10 defeat at Montana on Saturday.
“We need to move on from this,” Vigen said. “At the same time, though, this should hurt. There's nothing more than I think our guys wanted, and it didn't happen for us today. But I think on the flip side, they understand that we do have football ahead of us, and we’ve got to be able to get better through whatever time we have before that next game.”
No. 2 North Dakota State, No. 3 James Madison, No. 4 Sacramento State, No. 5 Villanova, No. 6 Montana and No. 7 Eastern Tennessee State are the other seeded teams.
UC Davis, which plays at South Dakota State, and Eastern Washington, which hosts Northern Iowa, were other Big Sky teams which will play in the first round.
“We have a lot of football left to play this year,” MSU linebacker Troy Andersen said Saturday. “All our goals are still in front of us. This loss won’t define us. Back to work. We’ll be fine.”