Chris Murray has grown up in a hurry.
Suddenly the Montana State sophomore is one of the hottest things in the Big Sky Conference, a dual-threat quarterback who reminds some of Bobcat legend DeNarius McGhee.
That’s the ultimate compliment in Bozeman, where McGhee helped MSU share three Big Sky titles from 2010-12.
Now McGhee is Murray’s position coach, and they’d like nothing better than to knock off ninth-ranked Eastern Washington this weekend in Cheney.
McGhee beat the Eagles on his first two tries – notably during EWU’s national championship season – but Murray was still learning the craft last year as a redshirt freshman.
By game’s end, Eastern’s Gage Gubrud – also a first-year starter – had thrown for a school-record 520 yards in a 41-17 Eagle win. Meanwhile, Murray was being chased all over the field and the Bobcats were held to 152 yards total offense in the last three quarters.
However, Murray and the Bobcats regrouped under first-year coach Jeff Choate and knocked of Montana in Missoula to finish 4-7.
Picked by the league’s coaches and media to finish eighth this year, the Bobcats are a mild surprise at 2-1 in Big Sky play, with wins over preason favorite North Dakota and Portland State.
A big reason is Murray, a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder from Southern California who showed off his versatility last week against PSU at windy Bobcat Stadium.
How windy? Enough to knock out ROOT Sports’ television broadcast for much of the first half.
Thanks to Murray’s mobility – he’s the third-leading rusher in the league and the only quarterback in the top 10 – the Bobcats (2-1 in the Big Sky and 2-3 overall) had no trouble adjusting.
“As the day went on (the wind) was more likely going to start to gust more,” Bobcats coach Jeff Choate said afterward. “That’s just part of the deal. I was really pleased with our ability to kind of modify the game plan and play a different style if we needed to.”
That’s when the Bobcats went with the run, earning a season-high 403 yards on 57 carries to beat the Vikings 30-22. Murray had 126 yards – his fourth straight game over 100 – and he wasn’t sacked or thrown for a loss.
The Bobcats also have the top defense in the league (in Big Sky games only), giving up just 348 yards per game.
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