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Montana State’s Rush Reimer celebrates a play Sept. 11 at Bobcat Stadium.

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Montana State players felt a range of mostly negative emotions at halftime of their home game against Idaho on Nov. 13. Few had more to process than Rush Reimer.

On the final play of the first half, MSU quarterback Matthew McKay dropped back for a pass and was quickly sacked. He fell onto right tackle TJ Session, who was slow to get up. Reimer, Session’s backup, first felt sympathy for his ailing teammate. Then he remembered he would be the one replacing Session, so he began preparing.

“Thank God we had halftime because I was pretty stiff,” Reimer said Monday.

Reimer played the entire second half of that game — a 20-13 win — and was MSU’s first-string right tackle a week later in the 120th ‘Cat-Griz game — a 29-10 loss. The redshirt freshman was far from perfect in those six quarters, but he and his coaches have seen improvement.

The leg injury Session suffered will continue to keep him out, per MSU head coach Brent Vigen, so Reimer will start again Saturday. The eighth-seeded Bobcats host UT Martin in the second round of the FCS playoffs. A good performance from Reimer could provide a boost to MSU’s struggling offense.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Rush,” MSU offensive line coach Brian Armstrong said. “Physically, he’s got a little ways to go, but mentally he’s catching up and gaining ground every day. I’m excited about him.”

Reimer signed with MSU in 2019 following an excellent career at Camas (Washington) High. He was a two-time all-conference selection and earned first-team all-state honors as a senior. Camas went 14-0 and won the 4A state title that season.

Reimer was a three-star recruit, according to 247 Sports, and received offers from MSU, Eastern Washington, Idaho and Northern Colorado. He redshirted last year.

MSU entered this season seeking two new starting tackles. Second-team all-American Mitch Brott graduated after the 2019 season, and fellow starting tackle Connor Wood transferred to Missouri.

The Bobcats ultimately moved senior Lewis Kidd from guard to left tackle, and Session earned the first-string right tackle job as a redshirt freshman. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Reimer began this season as the backup to Kidd, who went on to have an all-Big Sky first-team season.

Reimer rarely saw the field in a game beyond special teams, but he gained valuable experience during practice. He often had to go up against one of the best defensive ends in the Big Sky: Daniel Hardy.

“Having one of the best defenses in the league is nice,” Reimer said. “If you can beat dudes like Daniel, then you can go against anyone.”

Starting right guard Taylor Tuiasosopo has been listed as Session’s backup throughout the season. When Session went down, Tuiasosopo could have played right tackle with Cole Sain, who has started this season, at right guard.

But the Bobcats have stuck with Tuiasosopo, an all-Big Sky second-teamer, at right guard and Reimer at right tackle for six quarters and counting.

“Taylor’s strength is really playing inside,” Armstrong said. “I trusted Rush to get the job done and thought we could keep Taylor where he was comfortable and where he could excel.”

If Reimer had to describe his season in one word, it would be “developmental,” he said. Armstrong and Vigen described it similarly.

“To say that he exactly filled TJ’s shoes, I would say that’s not necessarily the case,” Vigen said. “But he’s played six quarters now, and he’s played better within that and I think he’s practiced better.”

Reimer admitted he felt some nerves before the ‘Cat-Griz game. He committed multiple false starts, which he partially attributed to the deafening sound created by the 26,856 fans in attendance.

“It was my first time being in that game, first time seeing the game, and it was wild for sure,” Reimer said. “It’s a whole different experience. I’ve never played a game anything like that.”

Beyond the penalties, Reimer thought he played OK against the Griz, but he acknowledged both he and the rest of MSU’s O-line had ample room for improvement. This Saturday would be an opportune time for a bounce back.

Kidd and Tuiasosopo will graduate after this season, so Reimer’s playoff performance will not only affect MSU’s 2021 results. It will show his coaches if he can step into a full-time starting role next fall.

“I think he’s got the jitter part out of the way, and so he can just go play football and focus on being a good football player,” Armstrong said. “I do think he’s going to be a really, really good player here before it’s said and done.”

Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.

This article originally ran on bozemandailychronicle.com.

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