Montana State had decided to elevate another quarterback to starter before Matthew McKay had entered the transfer portal, sources told the Chronicle on Friday.
As a reaction to the Bobcats going another way at QB, a source said McKay then chose to depart. McKay did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He is no longer on MSU’s online roster.
A source added both Tucker Rovig and Tommy Mellott received a heavy number of snaps with the starters during practice this week.
When asked last week, MSU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Taylor Housewright wouldn’t say if Mellott, a freshman from Butte, or Rovig, who has started 14 games in his career, will see the field more in the playoffs. Mellott has played increasingly more behind center, while Rovig is listed as the backup on MSU’s depth chart.
An MSU spokesperson confirmed Thursday that McKay was indeed in the transfer portal and the Bobcats would announce a starter an hour before kickoff Saturday. The spokesperson added that is all MSU would divulge until Saturday.
The No. 8-seeded Bobcats (9-2) host UT Martin (10-2) in the second round of the FCS playoffs at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bobcat Stadium.
McKay announced his move Thursday afternoon, two days before MSU’s postseason game. As a graduate transfer, McKay could be eligible to play next season.
“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!”
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, a 6-foot-4, 210-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.
McKay has started every game this year. His teammates praised him for his work ethic, particularly his dedication to watching film. He was among the top quarterbacks in the FCS in passing efficiency at points in the season.
However, his last game at Montana resulted in him completing 12 of 25 passes for 108 yards with one touchdown. It was his fourth time in five games he passed for less than 150 yards.
From his first six games compared to his final five, his passing yards per game were cut nearly in half (224 to 112.8). His completion percentage also dipped by nearly 13% (67.9% to 55%).
Rovig took over as the starter midway through the 2019 season as the Bobcats went on to reach the FCS semifinals. That year, Rovig threw for 1,969 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions on 172-of-279 passing (62%).
Rovig has completed 2 of 5 passes for 30 yards and one touchdown this season. The 6-5, 220-pound junior from Meridian, Idaho, had decided this would be the final year of his MSU career after already earning his degree.
Rovig’s highlight moment of 2019 was his first career playoff start, a second-round game against UAlbany. His three touchdowns in that contest is tied for first all-time at MSU in a single playoff game, while his 24 completions is third and his 279 yards is fifth.
Two of those touchdown grabs were by Lance McCutcheon, which ties him for the lead. The senior from Bozeman has had a breakout 2021 season and had been McKay’s favorite target.
Rovig is also the last Bobcat to throw for more than 300 yards when he totaled 310 in his second career start, a home game against Wagner in 2018.
“He’s a strong leader,” Vigen said of Rovig. “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 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, three of those in one game against Idaho on Nov. 13. He’s completed 2 of 4 passes for 12 yards.
The 6-foot, 208-pound freshman completed 191 of 300 passes for 2,940 yards as a senior at Butte High. He threw 30 touchdowns compared to four interceptions and led Butte to the Class AA championship game.
Midway through this season, Vigen noted Mellott would see a heavier involvement in the offense.
“To build off of that is what we need to be able to do here the rest of the way,” Vigen said about a month ago. “He’s made an impact when the ball is in his hands, and we’d be crazy to go away from that.”