UM’s mountain men to be key players

2012-09-06T23:12:00Z 2012-09-07T16:47:48Z UM’s mountain men to be key playersBy FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian missoulian.com
September 06, 2012 11:12 pm  • 

While senior Dan Moore got the career-high for yards and Peter Nguyen streaked for another 102, the Montana Grizzlies’ offensive linemen finished off a 35-24 win over South Dakota last week in anonymity.

That’s about how it always is.

“They made us look good out there,” said smiling right tackle Danny Kistler, Jr. “And Trent (McKinney, UM’s quarterback) did a lot of good things. They make us look good.

“We just put a body on a body. They’re the ones who need the attention.”

Yet as No. 12 Montana’s showdown at No. 11 Appalachian State looms – they’ll kick off in Boone, N.C., at 4:30 p.m. MDT Saturday – a lot rests on the shoulders and arms of Kistler and Co.

If they manage to clear the way to another 315 rushing yards, which was their total against South Dakota last week, the Griz would be in pretty good shape.

It’s easier written than done against the sturdy Mountaineers.

“They’re a big, physical defense and they’re very talented,” said Kistler. “I’m excited to get after it because I feel every time we go against a team that lines up and is really aggressive – I just enjoy that.”

Blitz-happy South Dakota surrendered 568 yards of offense last week to the Griz, but UM offensive line coach Scott Gragg wasn’t ready to call it a great performance.

“Probably my nature is it’s never as good as you think it is,” he said. “They were a (Mike) Breske-style of defense, which is hit and scatter. When you’re right you’re right, and when you’re wrong it can look ugly.

“This is the polar opposite, this team we’re facing.”

Appalachian State plays more conservatively, relying mainly on its front four to pressure the QB. It’s a welcome change for the Griz in terms of preparation.

“All that blitz stuff is fine, because it’s pretty and all that and gets big plays sometimes,” Kistler added. “But it’s a lot harder to practice against because everybody’s flying all over. I like it when the guy is there. It’s fun for all of us.

“We just have to listen to the coach. Like Coach Gragg said, we’ve got to be technique-perfect and do what we’re taught to do.”

* * *

Michael Frazier, the Appalachian State linebacker turned backup running back, remembers Montana’s O-line from the 2009 Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.

“One thing I remember when I was a freshman,” laughed Frazier, who subbed in for injured backer Justin Lloyd and made six tackles, “was they were all 6-foot-6, 6-5, 6-4 and 300 pounds. A lot of them were 300 pounds, except for the center. I was nothing but 200 pounds at the time.

“I was like, ‘I’m going to have to go around those guys. I can’t go through them.’ ”

Frazier also remembers the snow storm that swept through at halftime, burying the field under a couple inches of snow.

“It looked like night and day,” he said. “You saw a few snowflakes coming down when we were heading to the locker room, and we came back and they were using snow blowers to clear the lines. We were like, ‘What did we just walk back into?’ ”

* * *

That game ended in a 24-17 Grizzly win, sealed when a last-second Armanti Edwards pass slipped through the fingers of Brian Quick, the App State great who is now a rookie receiver for the St. Louis Rams.

Nine years before that Appalachian State came to Missoula for another FCS semifinal and fell 19-16.

“We’ve lost two to Montana that were heartbreakers, one in overtime and one with one second left,” said Appalachian State Jerry Moore. “But we’ve won games like that. The first game that comes to mind is James Madison here (in 2007, a 28-27 win) and Richmond (in 2009) up there at their place.”

Moore equates those victories to preparation, and a lot of that is schedule.

“I don’t think we could’ve won those ball games if we hadn’t had experienced Baton Rouge (LSU) a couple times,” he said. “Those things prepare you for those ball games.”

* * *

Griz fans will likely have to pay to watch Saturday’s game at home, since it’s airing on ESPN GamePlan.

Missoula’s cable and satellite providers all offer GamePlan. Cost is $39.99 for a weekend or $142 for the season through Dish Network; $46.99 for one month or $140.97 for the season with DirecTV and $25 for the weekend and $142 for the season with Optimum.

In most cases it is easier to order the package online.

As for ESPN3, four Montana Internet providers offered it; none are in Missoula. 3 Rivers Communications, Range Telephone Cooperative, Triangle Communications System and Frontier Communications are rural providers.

QUICK KICKS: The forecast still calls for a 50 percent chance of rain in Boone, N.C., Saturday, with a high of 71. … Another true freshman could see action for the Griz: RB Joey Counts, who had an impressive fall camp. … App State lost at LSU 41-13 in 2008, and then lost in the FCS quarterfinals to eventual national champion Richmond 33-13. The Mountaineers lost 24-0 at LSU late in their 2005 season, ahead of winning their first of three straight FCS titles. … ASU has won 61 of its last 66 games at Kidd Brewer Stadium, a.k.a. “The Rock,” and its last 17 straight regular-season games there. … The Mountaineers play at Montana in 2013.

Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 523-5247, at fneighbor@missoulian.com or @Fritz_Neighbor.

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