Matthew McKay, Montana State’s starting quarterback, announced Thursday on Twitter he is entering the transfer portal.
It appears McKay will not start for the Bobcats the rest of the season. An MSU spokesperson confirmed with the Chronicle that McKay had entered the transfer portal and the Bobcats will announce their starting quarterback Saturday.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and the Lord led me to Montana State 2 years ago,” McKay posted on Twitter. “I’m thankful for the opportunity Montana State provided me to play this game I love. For that, I want to thank Coach (Brent) Vigen and his staff. I am thankful for the connections I made with coaches, teammates, and the community of Bozeman. With that being said, I’ve decided to enter my name into the Transfer Portal. I’m looking forward to wherever God leads me and am excited for the opportunities that await me!”
The Bobcats (9-2) are the No. 8 seed in the FCS playoffs and will host UT Martin (10-2) in the second round at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bobcat Stadium.
McKay transferred from North Carolina State following the 2019 season. After the Bobcats didn’t play in 2020, he earned the starting job going into this season.
McKay has started every game since. His teammates praised him for his work ethic, particularly his dedication to watching film.
McKay, a 6-foot-4, 208-pound junior, completed 153 of 246 passes (62.2%) for 2,021 yards, 16 touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s also second on the team with 316 rushing yards on 78 attempts with two touchdowns.
He was among the top quarterbacks in the FCS in passing efficiency at points in the season.
In his last game at Montana, McKay completed 12 of 25 passes for 108 yards with one touchdown, his fourth time in five games he’s passed for less than 150 yards.
“Just like we do any game, win or loss,” McKay said following MSU’s 29-10 loss to the Grizzlies, “is go back to the film room, go back to the weight room, go back to the practice field, just start grinding and getting better.”
McKay was also sacked four times.
“He’s played on his heels a little bit more,” Vigen said Monday of McKay. “We’ve got to be able to work that out of him. I think he owns that performance. He knew that wasn’t what we needed that day, and with an extra week we hope we can work through some things.”
In his first six games of the year, McKay averaged 224 passing yards per game with 12 total touchdowns, one pick and a 67.9% completion rate. After that, he averaged 112.8 passing yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 55% of his throws.
“We went into the (Montana) game and had everything on the line, and as an offense in this program right now, we’re not ready for that moment,” MSU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Taylor Housewright said last week. “So where do we go from here? We’ve got to pick ourselves up and keep working and keep getting better.”
Housewright wouldn’t say if Tommy Mellott, a freshman QB from Butte, or previous starter Tucker Rovig will see the field more in the playoffs.
“Guys are always competing at every position. It’s week to week,” Housewright said. “So I think as long as guys show up and compete and keep getting better, whoever we put out there is the best product.”
Housewright was asked last week why McKay has struggled recently.
“I don’t really want to answer that, to be honest with you,” Housewright responded. “We’ll get better at that position.”
Rovig, who took over as the starter midway through the 2019 season as the Bobcats went on to reach the FCS semifinals, was listed as the backup behind McKay on a depth chart released Wednesday. Rovig has completed 2 of 5 passes for 30 yards and one touchdown this season. In 2019, Rovig threw for 1,969 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions on 172-of-279 passing (62%).
Earlier this year, Vigen noted Rovig was chosen to be a team captain for a good reason.
“He’s a strong leader,” Vigen said. “I think his perspective, whether he’s the starter or not, is one with the team in mind. I appreciate him as a leader, and I think the whole group for that matter.”
Mellott has played increasingly more but has made the most impact on the ground. He’s tied for third on the team with 294 rushing yards on 36 attempts. He’s scored four touchdowns on the ground, three of those in one game against Idaho in MSU’s penultimate contest of the regular season. He’s completed 2 of 4 passes for 12 yards.
Casey Bauman, a sophomore who was MSU’s opening-day starter in 2019, has played in three games this season. He suffered an injury to his non-throwing hand early in the year. Vigen said it was “fairly significant.”
Troy Andersen, the Big Sky defensive player of the year at linebacker, could also play more on offense, as he did for a couple snaps at Montana. He was an all-American quarterback in 2018. However, this late into the season, he might not have enough time to prepare for a significant number of snaps behind center.
In the wake of the NCAA making it easier for players to transfer, Vigen said in April the Bobcats would prioritize retention and make MSU a desirable place for players to go to and stay at.
“It’s really important for us,” Vigen said then, “to look through our lens and say, ‘We have to create the best environment so our guys feel attached here. Not just attached to Montana State, they’re attached to their team and teammates. They’re getting their opportunity here and looking elsewhere is not their mindset.’
“That’s something you’ve always got to keep on the forefront. So you recruit these guys, but the retention more than ever will be a priority. What are you doing as a program to get your guys everything they need to succeed?”
Victor Flores of 406mtsports.com contributed to this story.