Big Sky Notebook: Griz, App State going their separate ways

2013-09-03T10:34:00Z 2013-09-05T18:02:02Z Big Sky Notebook: Griz, App State going their separate waysBy GREG RACHAC/Billings Gazette missoulian.com
September 03, 2013 10:34 am  • 

Montana football coach Mick Delaney came to an intriguing conclusion late Saturday night after the game against Appalachian State.

“This is the fourth time we’ve played them, and it’s probably the last time,” Delaney said after his 20th-ranked UM whooped its quasi-rival 30-6 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. “They’ve never beat the Griz in Missoula, and they’re not going to get another chance, so that’s good.”

It’s good for the Grizzlies, certainly. But that fact that Montana and Appalachian State won’t face each other again in a meaningful game for several years (if ever) is a bit disconcerting for fans and advocates of the Football Championship Subdivision.

ASU, of course, is moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision next season as a new member of the Sun Belt Conference. The Griz will remain where they are for the foreseeable future in the Big Sky Conference and the FCS.

The Mountaineers’ move marks the end of an era of dominance that saw them win three consecutive Division I national championships from 2005-07, produce perhaps the greatest player in FCS history in quarterback Armanti Edwards and pull off a landmark upset when they stunned Michigan 34-32 on the road to open the 2007 season.

For years, Montana and Appalachian State have flown the FCS flag high, bringing publicity and relevance to an underrated and underappreciated level of college football.

Since 2000, UM and ASU have been two winningest programs at the FCS level. In that span, Montana is 143-36 (a .799 winning percentage), while the Mountaineers are 127-45 (.738). They combined for 22 playoff appearances and advanced to the national championship game eight times in the past 13 seasons.

Beginning in the 2000 playoffs, Montana and App State went head-to-head four times, as Delaney noted. The best of those games was the 2009 playoff thriller at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, a 24-17 win that sent the Griz on to their second straight title game.

Because of its transition up, App State is not eligible to win the Southern Conference title or compete in the playoffs this season. During a visit to Billings this past spring, Montana athletic director Kent Haslam likened it to a good friend moving away.

Delaney was obviously pleased that his team opened the season the way it did. It’s a strong start, and also served as comeuppance for last September’s 35-27 loss to the Mountaineers in Boone, N.C. But the Grizzlies aren’t getting ahead of themselves.

“It’s really important, but it wasn’t a make-or-break type of game. Those are two really good football teams,” Delaney said. “People have asked, ‘Would you rather play a nobody the opening weekend or play an Appalachian State?’ And we would rather play Appalachian State.”

Texas-bound

Montana State drilled Monmouth in its season opener Thursday night in Bozeman, building a 36-point halftime lead before pulling the plug on its starters. Final score: 42-24.

Seventh-year Bobcats coach Rob Ash lauded the fact that the No. 2 and No. 3 offense and defense saw quality playing time in the second half. Even though MSU was expected to beat Monmouth soundly, Ash said the outcome was a byproduct of motivation.

“I think the fact that we came out and played well at the beginning should be considered a sign of how much we respect Monmouth, how much respected our preparation for them and how difficult an opponent we thought they were going to be,” Ash said.

Now the Bobcats turn their attention to a distinct Week 2 challenge -- a matchup with FBS Southern Methodist on Saturday in Dallas. SMU lost to Texas Tech 41-23 in its opener Friday night.

Montana State amassed 561 yards of offense against Monmouth, but senior quarterback DeNarius McGhee, who threw for 240 yards on 19-of-27 passing, said the performance shouldn’t be viewed as a harbinger for the game against an SMU team that struggled defensively against Texas Tech.

“Moving forward, what happened (Thursday) is kind of irrelevant,” McGhee said. “We just have to go in next week and focus and do exactly what our coaches tell us, because they put us in great situations.”

Daly honored

Bobcats defensive end Brady Daly has the task of replacing Buck Buchanan Award winner Caleb Schreibeis at the “Bandit” position in 2013.

He got off to a great start with a strong performance Thursday night, and was given the first Big Sky Conference defensive player of the week award of the year for his effort.

In just two quarters of playing time, Daly had six tackles (four for loss) with a sack, a forced fumble, two pass breakups and two quarterback hurries. He also threw a key block to help spring defensive end Craig Ashworth for a 57-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Daly’s sack was the 21st of his career.

Poll position

It’s no surprise that Eastern Washington, after upsetting ranked FBS opponent Oregon State (No. 25) 49-46 on Saturday, moved up in the newest FCS Top 25 poll. But it came at the Bobcats’ expense.

EWU leapfrogged Montana State to the No. 2 position in the latest rankings -- released Monday by The Sports Network -- bumping the Bobcats down a spot to No. 3. Montana, after the win over Appalachian State, jumped up seven spots to No. 13. App State fell from No. 12 to No. 21.

Nothing could move North Dakota State from the No. 1 spot. The powerful Bison knocked off Kansas State 24-21 on Friday, their fourth win over an FBS team in the past four seasons.

Towson, with a 33-18 victory over FBS Connecticut, jumped six spots to No. 5. Star running back Terrance West had 156 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns for Towson.

Sam Houston State beat Houston Baptist 74-0, but dropped one spot to No. 4.

Around the league

For his role in the upset over Oregon State, EWU QB Vernon Adams took home the Big Sky’s offensive player of the week award. Adams threw for a career-high 411 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 107 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 18 seconds to play. … Southern Utah K Colton Cook, with three field goals, including the game-winner as time expired in a 22-21 upset of FBS South Alabama, won the special teams player of the week award. … North Dakota WR Greg Hardin is up to his old tricks. Hardin caught five passes for 163 yards and two TDs, and also ran a kickoff back 90 yards for a touchdown as part of a 69-10 romp Thursday over Valparaiso of the Pioneer Football League. Hardin led the Big Sky in all-purpose yards last season.

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(1) Comments

  1. montanamuralist
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    montanamuralist - September 03, 2013 10:59 am
    I remember talking to an Idaho fan a few years back before a game at Washington Griz and he was exhorting the virtues of moving up a division and told me we should do the same. I wonder how he feels about that move now? The list of schools leaving FCS to move up is fairly large. Out of that group only former Big Sky member Boise State, who has a significant market in the Boise area, has had any success. Idaho, Marshall, Nevada Reno, another former Big Sky team, and more have made the move to relative obscurity. Meanwhile teams in FCS last week rolled up some impressive wins against FBS schools, perhaps the two most impressive being E. Washington's win at Oregon State and NDSU beating Kansas St. I am happy we are staying in this division. I wish App St. and Georgia Southern well next year but wonder if this is the best move for their programs.....and I sure will miss these match ups, both schools we have met several times over the years and leaving us as the last remaining "perennial power" in FCS. So be it.....good luck. If past history is any indication ASU and Georgia Southern will need it.
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