Thursday, December 17, 2009

#2 Wildcats vs. #1 Montana Grizzlies in FCS Championship - Preview of Villanova's Attempt to Capture First-Ever Football National Title

To the Wildcat faithful-

I'll be shifting gears to football, in order to preview the biggest game in Villanova football history.  On Friday night, the football Wildcats - the second seed of the 16-team field - will take on the undefeated, top-seeded Montana Grizzlies, on the ultimately neutral site of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Here's a preview...

First, I'd like to reprint the preview from frequent commenter Seamus, which he had appended to the Temple game story.  Seamus clearly did some research, and had many intelligent things to say about the upcoming gridiron clash - here's his comment in its entirety:
On the Montana game, they take their football very seriously in Montana. (Montana has a lot of 7-man football leagues in its small rural high schools; so high school graduates have a lot of playing experience, often on both sides of the ball.) This is experienced program that's been to national title game several times and came home with trophy twice, I think. They play in very harsh winter conditions in front of 20,000+ fans a game; and seem to be capable of throwing the ball effectively in those conditions.

On most offensive and defensive categories, I think we lead them, but they lead FCS, I believe, in passing attack and they have a 1,400-yard runner. I assume we can stop the run, but defensing their passing game will require our attention and let's hope our secondary has matured over the course of the year.

I take this team very seriously as I'm sure Andy does. His reported comment that Montana can't be tougher than the teams the 'Cats have already played may be effort to get criticism from Montana fans directed his way, instead of at the team.

Look forward to your preview.


Back to me, once more... 

The Viewpoint on the Montana Grizzlies

The Grizzlies carry an undefeated, 14-0 mark into the contest.  They are the champions of the Big Sky Conference, sweeping all eight games.  They will be seeking their third I-AA title (the old name for what is now the FCS).  Montana won it all in 1995, as well as 2001.  Last season, the Grizzlies reached the title game in Chattanooga, but lost to Richmond, 24-7, after they trailed the Spiders 21-0 at the break. 

In addition to their pair of national championships, Montana has also qualified for the I-AA playoffs in every season since 1993, a streak of 17 years, and one which is unmatched in I-AA history.

The Grizzlies' lone touchdown a year ago in Chattanooga, seems even more surprising, given the potency of the team's offense this season.  Montana led the FCS in points per game, averaging over 36; offensive yardage, with 427.57 yards a contest; and points per game, during the three previous rounds, with 45.3.  Their three previous playoff games were remarkable, and worth noting in detail:

In the first round, facing the #16 seed, the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State, the Grizzlies made an incredible second-half rally to avoid the upset; South Dakota State was 8-4, and for them to upset Montana, would have been shocking.

The Jackrabbits (what a great nickname!) lived up to that moniker, racing off to a 48-21 lead with 5:40 to play in the third quarter.  Montana not only rallied from 27 points down, they actually won the game by 13 points!  The Grizzlies ultimately triumphed, 61-48, scoring 40 unanswered points.  The game had its share of drama, as South Dakota State, now trailing 54-48, had the ball and potentially could have scored to retake the lead.  But Montana picked off an errant pass, and returned it 32 yards, for a touchdown, making the final margin somewhat misleading.

After having sweated out the Jackrabbits contest, Montana fans didn't need to worry in the next round, against Stephen F. Austin.   Montana forced ten turnovers and crushed the lower-seeded squad, 51-0; it was 38-0 at halftime.  (Montana likely wasn't complacent, since they had come back from 27 down with less than 21 minutes to play, the week before.)

Montana faced its second stiff challenge from Appalachian State, a I-AA power which won back-to-back-to-back national championships from 2005-07.  The Grizzlies trailed 17-14 at the end of three quarters, but rallied for 10 fourth-quarter points to advance, by the score of 24-17.

Another Preview

Mike at VUHoops offers Meet the University of Montana.

Go Wildcats!  Bring home a football national title!


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hmmm...that guy must have given up writing letters as a Nigerian archbishop!

Well, wonderful game. All Montana in first half in the air; all Wildcats in the second on the ground. Not sure what defensive adjustments we made to shut down those easy out passes to their end, but it worked.

Damn, our backfield came through in huge way. Incredible block from Harvey to spring Sczur on game-clinching drive with about 13 minutes left. Thought I'd choke on my pretzel when we gave up that long TD with a minute to go.

Still, a wonderful game. A magnificent accomplishment for Andy and his team. Richly deserved!