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George Ferguson: Thanks ESPN ... Friday night in Missoula will be a lot of fun

From The Fringe...


Last updated 12/2/2021 at 10:23am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana's Xavier Harris, left, goes past a diving Montana State defender during the 120th Brawl of the Wild last month in Missoula. The No. 6 Grizzlies and No. 8 Bobcats both had byes in the first round of the FCS playoffs last weekend. Now, Montana hosts Eastern Washington in a huge rematch Friday night in Missoula, while the Cats host Tennessee-Martin Saturday afternoon in Bozeman in second-round FCS playoff matchups.

I'm not sure how long ago it was. But I remember it vividly. Pre-pandemic, I wrote a column about how I wished the Montana Grizzlies and Montana State Bobcats played more night games.

I even suggested that, at the very least, the Brawl of the Wild should always be a late afternoon kickoff, if not an actual night game.

Of course, one of the excuses not to do it is how cold it gets that time of year. To that I say, come on Montanans, you can't have it both ways. Either we brag about how tough we are in cold weather, or, it's just a bunch of hot air.

Whatever though, for now, the Cats and Griz play one night home game each year - except for the rare occasion when ESPN makes one of them, or sometimes both, play a night game in the FCS playoffs.

And that's where we stand this weekend, as the Griz get a night game Friday in the second round of the playoffs.

And I couldn't be more excited.

I don't care how cold it is, even though it's not even supposed to be cold. I've never missed a night playoff game at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, including the infamous Appalachian State semifinal game in 2009. You want to talk about the cold. That game was cold. I took a glove off for less than one minute and I don't think that hand has ever recovered.

I didn't care how cold it was then, however, and I don't care. now. Night games are absolutely a part of college football. Sorry Bobby Hauck, I know you're not a big fan of night games, but they are very much an exciting part of college football. That's why they call it prime time, and the Griz are going primetime Friday night.

And to add to the fun, this isn't your average, run of the mill, second-round playoff game. This is a game, in Missoula, under the lights, in December, against hated Eastern Washington.

You can thank the NCCA and regionalization for that, but whatever the case, however it happened, the Eagles are coming to Missoula for a rematch. And, they're mad about it.

They may have a point, too. Not only did Eastern beat the Griz back in October on the vaunted "Inferno," the Eagles are ranked No. 4 in the FCS, while the Griz are ranked No. 6. Still, Eastern lost at home to both Weber State and MSU, and the selection committee took that into account when it came to seeding, where the Bobcats held onto a seed, while Eastern was bumped out of the Top 8 despite their ranking. Sorry EWU, if you had beaten either Weber or the Cats, you'd probably be a top four seed right now, and you wouldn't be coming to Missoula on Friday night.

But, alas, you are, and in my opinion that makes Friday night's game the single most meaningful playoff game the Griz have had in Missoula since their 2011 quarterfinal win over Northern Iowa. Oh yeah, that one was under the lights in Missoula, too. And I was there, and it was a blast.

And I expect Friday night to be a blast as well.

From my perspective, what more can a college football fan ask for? Washington-Grizzly Stadium, under the lights, cold and loud, playing Eastern Washington ... in the playoffs. That's what college football is all about in my estimation, so I'm going to thank the NCAA for setting this game up, and really thank ESPN for putting this game under the lights.

Because that's exactly where it should be.

Editor's Note: Friday night's game between the Grizzlies and Eagles kicks off at 7 p.m. on ESPN+. The Bobcats take on Tennessee-Martin Saturday at 2 p.m. in Bozeman. That game can also be streamed on ESPN+.


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