Cats, Griz home for final nonconference games
It's home again for the Montana State Bobcats and Montana Grizzlies. And after difficult road contests last Saturday night, things don't get any easier for either Montana school.
The No. 3 Bobcats (2-0) play host to fellow FCS power S.F. Austin, while the No. 14 Grizzlies battle FCS foe Liberty for the first time in school history Saturday in Missoula.
The Cats are coming off a 34-24 scare at Drake last Saturday night. Turnovers and bad execution for three quarters led MSU into an unexpected close battle with head coach Rob Ash' former squad. But MSU dominated the fourth quarter, left Iowa with a win and now are set to take on the No. 24 Lumberjacks.
S.F.A, of the Southland Conference, is 1-1 on the season and comes to Bozeman off a 55-0 loss to FBS SMU last Saturday night. But the Jacks will present a stern test to MSU's defense, which lost defensive tackles Zach Minter and defensive end Brad Daly to injury last weekend. S.F.A is a pass-first, pass-often team led by quarterback Brady Attaway, who is a pro-style type passer, but also is a good scrambler. Attaway was injured against SMU, but expects to play Saturday in Bozeman. S.F.A has a bevy of speedy wide receivers and running backs, a big defensive line and will match up well with MSU. But, the Jacks also turned the ball over 10 times against SMU and in their last trip to Montana, a 2009 playoff game in Missoula, they did the same thing. So Saturday could be a big day for the stout MSU defense.
Meanwhile, Montana (1-1) returns home looking to bounce back from an emotional 35-27 loss at Appalachian State. The Griz and Mountaineers played another game for the ages, a game in which UM freshman quarterback Trent McKinney threw for 200 yards, rushed for 65 and scored four touchdowns, but also three interceptions. McKinney threw a pick in the final seconds as Montana was driving for the game-tying score.
Still, UM is now third in the FCS in total offense, while its defense, with 10 new starters has done well also. The Flames, who have never played the Griz, are 0-2 with losses to FBS Wake Forest and FCS Norfolk State by a combined 10 points. Liberty is an undersized but fast team, and the Flames run a pro-style offense. They have a good passing quarterback, a good run game and a solid offensive line. The key factors for Liberty, which went to the FCS playoffs four years ago, will be if they can avoid being overwhelmed by the Washington-Grizzly Stadium crowd and if they can stop UM's rushing attack. Montana is averaging 253 yards per game on the ground with senior Dan Moore leading the way. UM also gets sophomore tailback Jordan Canada back from suspension this week, which will also add to the Griz' rushing attack.
Montana State's game with S.F. Austin will kick off at 1:35 p.m. Saturday in Bozeman. The game can be seen locally on KFBB Channel 5 on Optimum. The Grizzlies' game with Liberty is set for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff in Missoula. That game is being televised on Altitude Sports.