Bozeman, MT (SportsNetwork.com) - Montana State senior quarterback DeNarius McGhee had started 40 consecutive games prior to Week 3 of this FCS season. He's the unquestioned leader of the Bobcats. The offense revolves around him.
But things became foggy for the team when McGhee went down on the very last play of Montana State's Week 2 game against SMU with a separated shoulder. His outlook wasn't good, and his streak of consecutive starts was over.
The original prognosis was that McGhee would miss about a month of play; he wouldn't be back on the field until mid-October. But fortunately for McGhee and the Bobcats, his shoulder healed faster than expected, and he was able to return last week.
"There was a lot of therapy that went on in those two weeks (between starts)," McGhee said Friday. "My arm felt really good. I could sling it, I could throw the Dallas rout and I could throw post routs over the top, which I knew if I could do that, if I could run and do all these other things, then why sit out when you're 100 percent? Why sit out when you're able to play?
"I thought that I could play and be my normal self, so we decided (McGhee, his coaches and his family) to come back, and I didn't know I was going to come back right before the game because we didn't know how I was going to feel the day of the game given that I threw a lot the day before."
McGhee ended up starting last weekend against North Dakota -- several weeks before his projected return date. He saw solid work, too, completing 13 of 18 pass attempts for 194 yards, and carried the ball four times for 20 yards, in his team's 63-20 route of UND.
North Dakota entered last weekend's game in Grand Forks with a 1-2 record, but with losses to Top 20-ranked Montana and South Dakota State.
But McGhee insists the opponent -- a Big Sky foe on the road -- didn't factor in his decision to play, despite the fact that a week earlier the Bobcats traveled down to Stephen F. Austin and were handed a loss, the team's second of the season.
"That didn't play a factor at all," McGhee said. "My decision was based on my health, and if I was healthy and if I was able to play, then I was going to play. And if I wasn't ready to go, then I wasn't going to go. We felt really confident in (backup quarterback Jake Bleskin) and that he could get the job done as well. But given that I could play, I wasn't going to sit out."
With 15th-ranked Northern Arizona in Bozeman this weekend for the Bobcats' Homecoming game, McGhee said his team has been focusing on the tough and talented Lumberjacks defense. Northern Arizona is 3-1, with a recent upset victory over Montana.
In the end, the only team that matters in McGhee's eyes is his Bobcats. It will be a tough task Saturday against the Lumberjacks, but he believes the Bobcats hold their own fate.
"We don't know exactly what we're capable of until we actually do it," he said. "Moving forward we'll see what we can do; see how focused we are in these games, and see if we can get us a win tomorrow, because tomorrow is the only game that we're promised."