Grizzlies fill in the gaps at offensive line

Grizzlies fill in the gaps at offensive line

Trevor Poole (72) paves the way for running back Travon Van during the Cat-Griz game last November. Poole, along with John Schmaing, is one of two returning starters to the Grizzlies offensive line in 2014.

Earlier in spring practice, Montana offensive line coach Scott Gragg had some very high praise for returning left tackle John Schmaing, telling GoGriz.com:

"If you look at just the grades, not necessarily production, John graded out better than our three starters who just left us from last year. He's a really consistent player. As a junior next year he's going to be the next guy that the NFL will have its eyes on. He's just becoming a very good player, and doing some really good things. It's neat to see a Montana kid playing as well as he is, and he's going to move into that leadership role for us on the offensive line. My expectations are super high for him."

That's important for the Griz, because Schmaing, a Billings Senior product, is the only returning offensive lineman entrenched at the same position he played last season. Trevor Poole also returns, but he's being moved from left guard to right tackle, where Gragg says he's more comfortable. Other than that, UM's offensive line will have a different look in 2014 than it did a year ago.

This chart breaks down the difference:

  2013 2014 (projected)
LT John Schmaing, So. John Schmaing, Jr.
 LG Trevor Poole, Jr. Jordan Hines, Sr.
C Kjelby Oiland, Sr. Logan Hines, Jr.
 RG William Poehls, Sr. Ben Weyer, So.
RT Danny Kistler, Sr. Trevor Poole, Sr.
April 16, 2014 7:48 pmLoading…
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The time is now for MSU quarterbacks

The time is now for MSU quarterbacks

QB COMPETITION: Dakota Prukop (5) is one of four quarterbacks vying for the starting job at Montana State.

It's not the only spring position battle at Montana State, but it's the most important one. And the question will be asked from now until fall camp: Who will be the Bobcats' next starting quarterback?

MSU won't be able to simply replace DeNarius McGhee. McGhee was a four-year starter who set several passing records and became the winningest QB in program history. He was the face of Bobcat Football. He helped put them back on the map.

After last season, coach Rob Ash declared the quarterback competition open for the taking as McGhee walked out the door. Instead of giving junior-to-be Jake Bleskin the reins, the Cats want to also give Tanner Roderick, Dakota Prukop and Quinn McQueary equal looks. Bleskin started two games and showed great ability when McGhee was hurt, but the job is not automatically his.

"We are officially opening up the position for a fair fight for all four guys -- Jake, Roderick, and McQueary and Prukop," Ash said at the time. "Jake obviously has the edge as far as experience and age and playing time, and we did have that conversation with Jake, too. Just for the sake of good competition we’re going to officially say it’s open right now. We’re going to rotate guys around and get a good look at everybody and see what happens. And they all know that and they’re very excited about it.”

It's a smart move. The competition is designed bring out the best in each guy. 

March 18, 2014 10:30 pmLoading…
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Transition time for Griz LBs

Transition time for Griz LBs

A NEW ERA: Former safety Herbert Gamboa (20) is one of several fresh faces being called on to step in and produce at linebacker in 2014.

Spring practice started at Montana on Saturday. The Grizzlies are bringing back 14 starters from last year's 10-3 team (7 offense, 5 defense, 2 special teams), and will again be in the conversation of Big Sky title contenders.

But the most glaring aspect of this Griz team is what's missing, particularly at linebacker, where they say goodbye to standouts Jordan Tripp, Brock Coyle and John Kanongata'a and welcome in an entirely new group of starters charged with the task of replacing them.

Players leave ever season, but this is pretty unique. Right now, the depth chart lists junior Kendrick Van Ackeren as the starter on the weak side, junior Connor Lebsock or junior Herbert Gamboa on the strong side, and freshman Tucker Schye or junior Jeremiah Kose in the middle. Freshmen Connor Strahm and Zach Vis (didn't he come to UM as a receiver?) are also in the mix.

This, of course, is just the spring depth chart and is certainly subject to change. But you get the idea: It's a brand new era at linebacker in Grizville. And this crew will be under a microscope.

Tripp, Coyle and Kanongata'a combined to play 152 games and make 93 starts. That's a ton of experience lost. Tripp, of course, was a total beast, and remains on the NFL Draft radar. Coyle might have been the best linebacker in the league last year, despite his inexplicable omission from the All-Big Sky first team.

March 17, 2014 3:48 pmLoading…
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Huse, Bobcats hit bottom rung

Huse, Bobcats hit bottom rung

WHAT NOW?: Bobcats coach Brad Huse is 108-135 overall and 64-72 in Big Sky Conference games in his eight seasons in Bozeman.

Excluding the legendary Golden Bobcats of 1929, Montana State doesn’t have a history of national prominence in men’s basketball. They’ve been competitive, no doubt, but they haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1996, and have gone that far only three times in history.

Still, things haven’t been the same in recent years. In the eight seasons under coach Brad Huse, MSU is 108-135 overall and 64-72 in conference games. Hardly a picture of consistent winning. The Bobcats hit the low point of Huse’s tenure last week when they failed to qualify for the Big Sky’s postseason tournament.

Anybody can have a down year. It happens. But this was more than that. The Bobcats should be -- and typically have been -- a fixture at the Big Sky Conference tournament. It started out pretty well, but missing out on the tourney this year, of all years, is an unacceptable outcome. And it shouldn’t be excused as just a “bad season,” especially in a league with an RPI ranking well toward the bottom of Division I conferences. To have a bad year in the Big Sky in 2013-14, you had to be really bad. And this was supposed to be a breakout year, with the maturation of JC transfers like Flavien Davis and Antonio Biglow leading the way.

The finality of the Bobcats’ 14-17 (9-11) season puts a microscope on Huse. Last year, MSU went 13-17 and finished 10-10 in the league -- almost identical numbers -- and he was given a big vote of confidence by the university in the form of a two-year contract extension.

Huse is locked in contractually for next season at roughly $115,000 in base salary. If athletic director Peter Fields and, more importantly, university president Waded Cruzado want to make a coaching change now, they’d have to buy Huse out. And that's not happening.

March 11, 2014 8:41 pmLoading…
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Redskins blogger rips UM’s Coyle

Redskins blogger rips UM’s Coyle

Montana linebacker Brock Coyle (56) hits Montana State running back Chad Newell during the 113th Cat-Griz Game in November.

Apparently there are photos of former Montana linebacker Brock Coyle jumping flat-footed out of a swimming pool. It’s an impressive feat we’ve seen before, but count Brian Tinsman, a blogger for redskins.com, as one of those that is not impressed.

In fact, Tinsman comes down pretty hard on Coyle in a blog post on the NFL team’s official site, saying Coyle joined a group of players who “senselessly risked their lives and careers while exiting a backyard pool.”

Really?

Coyle risked his life by jumping out of a pool? Hardly. And if you’re buying what Tinsman is selling, Coyle doesn’t have an NFL career to risk anyway. Tinsman pointed out that the previous two players to show themselves jumping out of a pool combined to appear in five NFL games (all by Jarron Gilbert).

He might be right – ESPN.com ranks Coyle as the No. 24 inside linebacker in this year’s NFL draft – but that really isn’t the point. The point is that Coyle displayed his athleticism and strength by jumping out of a pool and a blogger on “the official site of the Washington Redskins” decided to rip him for it.

February 22, 2014 5:21 pmLoading…
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Notes and quotes from Signing Day

Notes and quotes from Signing Day

STOCKING UP: Montana's Mick Delaney (left) and Montana State's Rob Ash announced their recruiting classes on Wednesday.

Some leftovers from a busy Signing Day:

 Rob Ash wanted to make clear on Wednesday that new Bobcats running back and Nevada/Riverside JC transfer Anthony Knight is not a player of ill character and deserves his chance with MSU.

Knight was listed as part of 23 new football signings by Montana State on Signing Day. Knight originally intended to transfer to MSU last June, but was arrested on suspicion of attempted robbery and assault, along with a former Nevada teammate, in Reno. The district attorney’s office, though, found little evidence and chose not to press charges.

“He had some issues that were alleged a year ago, but what happened is they investigated that incident and he was falsely implicated," Ash said. "All the charges were dropped. We couldn’t find anything else in his background that gave us any reason not to recruit him. We are going to take him now, and he’s going to start in the fall.

“Anything that’s written or posted from this point forward about him relative to that incident would be really unfair to him. He wasn’t there. The charges have all been dropped. It was a case of wrong identity. So it just needs to be put to bed.”

February 05, 2014 8:30 pmLoading…
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Hope springs eternal on eve of Signing Day

Hope springs eternal on eve of Signing Day

NEW ADDITIONS: Quarterback Will Weyer (14) is expected to sign with the Grizzlies while linebacker Grant Collins (47) is supposed to ink with the Bobcats on Wednesday. They helped lead Bozeman to the Class AA championship this past season. 

I've never really bought into the Signing Day hype. It's a very important day for college football programs nationwide -- perhaps the biggest day of the offseason. They restock the shelves with new recruits who represent the hopes for success two and three years down the road.

But is it worth the buildup? The fact is, we just can't predict which players will emerge. Inevitably, one or two tagged as "can't miss" prospects simply won't pan out. And just as inevitably, one or two guys who walk on will make a big impact (think: Caleb Schreibeis or Marc Mariani). But we just won't know who until a couple years from now.

At Montana and Montana State, it's no different. And tomorrow, Mick Delaney at UM and Rob Ash at MSU will announce their 2014 recruiting classes. The Bobcats class this year will be bigger than Montana's based on available scholarships. Here is a peak at the verbal commitments made to each school as they stand on Signing Day Eve (based on published reports and/or social media information):

Grizzlies

NAME  POSITION  SCHOOL 
Will Weyer  QB  Bozeman (Bozeman, MT)
Alex Thomas DL/LB  CMR (Great Falls, MT) 
Carson King  LB  Beaverhead County (Dillon, MT) 
Kole Swartz  DE  Hellgate (Missoula, MT) 
Shayne Cochran LB  Culbertson (Culbertson, MT) 
Evan Epperly WR/DB Glacier (Kalispell, MT) 
Reese Carlson  WR  Gig Harbor (Gig Harbor, WA) 
David Reese  OL  Clackamas (Clackamas, OR) 
Evan Miksch  OL  Lake Stevens (Lake Stevens, WA) 
Caleb Lyons  ATH  Lakes (Lakewood, WA) 
Josh Buss  LB  Mountain View (Meridian, ID) 
Peter Brewer  LB  Los Alamos (Los Alamos, NM) 
Evan Defer LB/DL  Damonte Ranch (Reno, NV) 
February 04, 2014 6:00 pmLoading…
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First Cat-Griz matchup looming large

First Cat-Griz matchup looming large

RIVALRY RENEWED: Montana's Kareem Jamar drives between Montana State's Calan Coleman (left) and Marcus Colbert in a game last season. The first Cat-Griz matchup of this season is Monday in Bozeman.

After winning 50 games combined and making two NCAA Tournament appearances in the past two seasons, Montana is in the throes of a most trying season. The Grizzlies are 8-9 overall and just 3-5 in the Big Sky Conference. To put that in perspective, UM lost just two conference games combined the past two years.

At Montana State, the Bobcats were off to their best start in three years in the Big Sky but have since stumbled. A 4-1 league record turned into a 4-4 mark after three consecutive losses. The Cats are 9-10 overall.

Needless to say, Monday’s meeting between the Cats and Griz in Bozeman looms large. It’s the first of two scheduled games this year. Each team plays on the road this week against beleaguered Southern Utah (which is winless in the league and has one victory overall) prior to Monday’s tip-off, which means both should come in off a win.

The Grizzlies haven’t had a losing conference record this late in a season since 2007-08, when a 70-68 loss at Portland State dropped them to 3-5 on Jan. 31. But that Griz team rallied down the stretch, finishing 8-8 with a berth in the league tournament.

Right now UM is struggling with defense and rebounding. The Griz allow about 71 points per game, and teams are shooting nearly 49 percent against them. Those stats rank in the bottom half of the league. And they are the second-worst rebounding team in Division I -- lumped in with the likes of Arkansas-Pine Bluff and the University of Denver -- ranking 350th out of 351 teams with an average of just 22.4 boards per game. The low point came when Montana had just 11 rebounds in a home loss to Northern Colorado 10 days ago. It was a game in which big men Eric Hutchison and Andy Martin played a combined 18 minutes and had one rebound between them.

January 28, 2014 3:59 pmLoading…
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Turning the tide at MSU. For now, at least

Turning the tide at MSU. For now, at least

KEY CONTRIBUTOR: Montana State hasn't relied on just one or two players this season. Senior forward Flavien Davis paces the Cats in scoring at 10.9 points per game.

I was skeptical when news broke last April that Montana State had given men's basketball coach Brad Huse a two-year contract extension. In the previous seven seasons with the Bobcats, Huse's record was 93-117 overall. In Big Sky Conference games it was 55-61. Did he deserve it, I wondered?

This season is off to much better start, so it looks like the tide could be turning. Huse and athletic director Peter Fields, for now, are proving me and anyone else who questioned the contract extension wrong.

The Bobcats are just 8-6 overall entering Saturday's game at Eastern Washington. But check out their record in the league: MSU is 3-0 and tied for first place. It's their best start in conference play since the 2010-11 season.

How have they done it? It's interesting to note that the Cats don't really have a consistent go-to scorer. Forward Flavien Davis leads the team at 10.9 points per game, and he's the only player that average double-digit points. But Davis, guard Marcus Colbert, big man Paul Egwuonwu and forward Calan Coleman combine to make up a little more than 51 percent of the scoring.

MSU has shot a little better than 50 percent from the floor in its three conference games, which ranks second in the league. Davis averages 13.3 points in conference games, which ranks in a tie for 16th in the league. Guard Michael Dison is the only other Bobcat in the top 25 at 11.0 points per conference game.

January 10, 2014 5:58 pmLoading…
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Grizzlies 2014: Five players to watch

Grizzlies 2014: Five players to watch

THE MIDDLE: Caleb Kidder (44) has been solid at defensive tackle for the Grizzlies. He'll be asked to do even more as a starter next season.

Jordan Johnson is back next year. As are Jordan Canada, Travon Van, Ellis Henderson, Jamaal Jones and several solid linemen. Offensively, the Grizzlies look well-stocked personnel-wise.

Defensively it's not as clear cut. Montana loses three starting linebackers (Jordan Tripp, Brock Coyle, John Kanongata'a), a top interior lineman (Alex Bienemann) and two key players in the secondary (Anthony Goodwin, Bo Tully). There are a lot of shoes to fill.

So here's a list of five Grizzlies to keep an eye on this offseason and into the 2014 campaign. These are not Montana's "best" players going into next year, they're simply the ones with the most to gain.

5. K BEN WORST: The coaches' confidence in the kicking game totally vanished at the end of the season. You don't think that was important? If the Griz would have had a reliable field goal kicker at the end of the year, they would have had a much better chance to beat Coastal Carolina in the playoffs. If Worst still has the kicking job by the time the next year rolls around, it'll be imperative that he rediscovers his confidence and consistency, assuring the coaches that they can call on him when needed without hesitation. Worst certainly has the leg to be solid. Either way, the kicking game should be a huge (and underrated) priority from now until August.

4. DT CALEB KIDDER: Kidder already had an impact last year. He played in every game, earning two starts, and finished the season with 40 tackles and 3½ sacks. Kidder has been solid, but will be called on to do even more as a junior next season while replacing Alex Bienemann in the starting lineup. Kidder isn't the biggest DT in the world at 260 pounds (Bienemann ran at about 285) but he has great length at 6-foot-5 and can really move. Plus, he'll be paired with 305-pounder Tonga Takai in the middle, which takes some of the pressure off. Kidder figures to be one of the most important players on defense next year.

December 28, 2013 6:30 pmLoading…
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Bobcats 2014: Five players to watch

Bobcats 2014: Five players to watch

NEXT MAN UP: Will Brian Flotkoetter (84) become Montana State's No. 1 receiver next season? Time will tell.

A football team looks different with each new season, but at Montana State in 2014 it's really going to look different. The losses of QB DeNarius McGhee, RB Cody Kirk, WR Tanner Bleskin and DE Brad Daly present a challenge to coach Rob Ash, his staff, and the players to mitigate those subtractions as smoothly as possible.

So here's a list of five Bobcats to keep an eye on this offseason and into the 2014 campaign. These are not necessarily the "best" players going forward into next season. Rather, they're the players with the most to gain.

And all will be important if the Bobcats hope to get back into the postseason after missing out this past fall.

5. WR BRIAN FLOTKOETTER: Tanner Bleskin, perhaps the most reliable receiver in program history, is done. As is speedster Jon Ellis. So from the WR position, Flotkoetter could become the No. 1 option in the passing game next season. With 63 career catches, 848 yards and five TDs, Flotkoetter is the team's most experienced receiver coming back. And at 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds, Flotkoetter is a near carbon copy of Bleskin. He also has good hands and knows how to get open. With new starters at several positions, the entire passing game will look different next season. But Flotkoetter, who will be a senior, can give the Bobcats some leadership and stability to keep things running smoothly. 

4. LB NA'A MOEAKIOLA: Ok, so Moeakiola was already a prominent player when he injured his shoulder in practice last spring. But the injury required surgery and Moeakiola missed the the entire 2013 season. His return next year will be huge for the Bobcats. He and Alex Singleton should make up one of the best 1-2 linebacker combinations in the Big Sky Conference. Moeakiola is out to prove the injury won't hinder his all-conference production, and to do what he can to get MSU back on track after a disastrous ending to the 2013 campaign -- an ending Moeakiola watched helplessly from the sideline.

December 27, 2013 10:00 pmLoading…
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2013 Montana Grizzlies: The year in review

2013 Montana Grizzlies: The year in review

DIFFERENCE-MAKER: In 2013, the Grizzlies benefited greatly from the return of standout quarterback Jordan Johnson. 

Turn back the clock to November of 2012. Montana had just lost to rival Montana State at home, which gave the Grizzlies a 5-6 record, their first losing season in a generation. It was then that coach Mick Delaney issued a bold promise, saying: 

“The Griz aren’t going anywhere. This is as far as we’ve ever went away, and we’ll be back -- quickly. This is a group of young guys that will come back and be an outstanding football team.”

That confidence laid a foundation. True to Delaney's guarantee, Montana returned to relevance this season, rolling up a 10-2 regular season record and earning a first-round bye to the FCS playoffs. The Grizzlies showed incredible resilience along the way, winning a number of games in dramatic fashion in the fourth quarter or overtime (see: Cal Poly, Sacramento State, South Dakota).

The Griz entered the season with high hopes, particularly with the return of quarterback Jordan Johnson. Johnson was forced to miss the 2012 season while fighting -- and overcoming -- dubious sexual assault charges, but he came back in a big way with more than 3,300 passing yards and 32 touchdowns to establish himself as an elite quarterback on the national level (more on that later).

The season ended sooner than the Griz would have liked, with a 42-35 home loss to Coastal Carolina in the second round of the playoffs. But it was a wild ride, one that put Montana back among the top teams in the country. Here's a look back at some of the highs and lows of the 2013 Grizzlies:

December 11, 2013 8:00 pm Related Loading…
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Live coverage: Montana vs. Coastal Carolina

Live coverage: Montana vs. Coastal Carolina

Montana defensive tackle Alex Bienemann (92) and linebacker Jordan Tripp (37) look to help the Grizzlies contain Zach Bauman and Northern Arizona when they play their Big Sky Conference opener Saturday night.

Coverage and commentary from the second-round FCS playoff game pitting the Montana Grizzlies against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Join the discussion here!

December 07, 2013 10:00 amLoading…

Montana vs. Coastal Carolina: Three keys

Montana vs. Coastal Carolina: Three keys

RUNNING WITH CONFIDENCE: Montana's Jordan Canada (26) is 42 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. Canada and the Grizzlies' running game will be called on to produce again Saturday versus Coastal Carolina.

For years we've heard all about how Peyton Manning is a cold weather stiff. Some people just aren't adept at performing at a high level when the temps fall below freezing. And Manning, as the stats, wins and losses suggest, is one of those guys.

This week we've heard all about how the cold weather in Missoula will affect Saturday's second-round playoff game between Montana and Coastal Carolina. It's not so much that Montana will have a particular "advantage" in this type of cold. The Griz might be more used to the wintry conditions than their southern opponent, but it's not like they don't have their share of players who hail from warm climates (starting corners Anthony Goodwin and Josh Dennard, for example, are from California and Arizona, respectively).

If it were in the 20s in Missoula tomorrow, then I could agree with the notion of Montana having a big leg up. But NOBODY is acclimated to zero or sub-zero temperatures, no matter where they are from. So it comes down to who can manage it better. Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia made absolutely certain his team will have sideline and bench heaters for the game. But the Grizzlies will have the same perks. As CCU running back Lorenzo Taliaferro suggested Thursday, the players have to "man up" and play through it.

Here are three areas to specifically watch on Saturday:

• RUNNING GAME: It might not be a big game for the quarterbacks -- although that's not a given. Montana's Jordan Johnson and Coastal's Alex Ross are each very efficient in their own right ... and both are capable of the big play. But the onus falls on the running backs, at least going in, and the teams know it. The Grizzlies' Jordan Canada and Travon Van will be asked, again, to grind it out between the tackles and bounce the ball outside for positive yards when necessary. Montana doesn't waver from its running game -- they go with it until it starts to work, and that will likely be the case against against the Chanticleers. The Griz would love to run the ball more than 50 times in this game. On the other side, Lorenzo Taliaferro is CCU's main man. Taliaferro comes in as an All-America candidate, having rushed for more than 1,500 yards and a Big South record 24 TDs. The Chants have more of a read option-style ground game, and Taliaferro is the focus of their attack.

December 06, 2013 10:15 pmLoading…
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Rob Ash and the road ahead at Montana State

Rob Ash and the road ahead at Montana State

THE NEXT ONE?: With the quarterback competition open at Montana State, Jake Bleskin (2) and three others will battle for the starting job.

The Age of DeNarius is over at Montana State. And the biggest revelation from Rob Ash's Wednesday conference call with reporters is that the Bobcats' quarterback competition is officially open for business.

The easy assumption was that Jake Bleskin, who started two games in place of an injured DeNarius McGhee early this past season, was the heir apparent. But Ash and his offensive staff are saying, "Not so fast." They've decided to open up the competition to everybody -- Bleskin, Dakota Prukop, Quinn McQueary and Nevada transfer Tanner Roderick.

My thinking is that the Bobcats want to take a looooong look at Roderick, who came to his native Bozeman presumably for a chance to earn the QB spot after a one-year trial run at receiver. Roderick spurned the Grizzlies in his return to Montana from the University of Nevada and deserves a crack at the job. He was, after all, the best dual-threat quarterback in the state coming out of high school (as a senior, Roderick threw for 2,457 yards, ran for 1,913 more and scored 51 total TDs!). Being able to both run and throw, Ash said, is the key to playing quarterback in college football today 

This is what Ash said Wednesday about the QB competition:

“Here’s what we’re doing at quarterback. We brought all four guys in and all four of them talked to (Tim) Cramsey, all four of them talked to me. We are officially opening up the position for a fair fight for all four guys -- Jake, Roderick, and McQueary and Prukop. Jake obviously has the edge as far as experience and age and playing time, and we did have that conversation with Jake, too. Just for the sake of good competition we’re going to officially say it’s open right now. We’re going to rotate guys around and get a good look at everybody and see what happens. And they all know that and they’re very excited about it.”

December 04, 2013 7:52 pmLoading…
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Coastal Carolina: Who to watch

Coastal Carolina: Who to watch

PRIME TIME PLAYER: Coastal Carolina running back Lorenzo Taliaferro is the sixth-leading rusher in the FCS with 1,572 yards.

It'll be louder than any place Coastal Carolina has played in the FCS. It'll also be much, much colder. The Chanticleers are not expected to beat Montana in their second-round playoff game Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. But, of course, that's why they play the game.

Coastal Carolina, which cracked the top five of the FCS poll in early November, has probably been the most consistent team in the 12-year football history of the Big South Conference. The Chanticleers won their sixth league title this year and earned the conference's automatic bid to the postseason for the third time in four seasons.

At 11-2, Coastal Carolina is the first 11-win team in Big South history. And don't sleep on the Big South. Before Stony Brook moved over to the CAA, the league competed really well in playoff games against supposedly better teams around the nation. But specifically, what are the Chanticleer's chances against Montana, a perennial playoff contender from the more powerful and playoff-tested Big Sky Conference? For the CCU to have any success, the following players must play key roles.

CCU has at least one standout in all three phases. You'll read and hear a lot about these guys from now until Saturday:

RB LORENZO TALIAFERRO: Taliaferro (pronounced Tau-La-Fair-oh) is a big-bodied back at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, and he's in the midst of a monster season. Taliaferro has set every single-season school record for rushing and scoring this year, and comes into the game against the Grizzlies as the Big South's offensive MVP. Among the single-season marks Taliaferro has set in the Big South, he's No. 1 in in rushing TDs, most points scored, most rushing TDs and most multi-rushing TD games. Nobody's been able to really contain Taliaferro yet this year. The Grizzlies would be wise to gear their defense toward that end.

December 02, 2013 9:00 pmLoading…
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Griz vs. NDSU? More than just a possibility

Griz vs. NDSU? More than just a possibility

DOME LIFE: North Dakota State is 7-0 in home playoff games at the Fargodome since 2011. A potential matchup between the Grizzlies and NDSU in Fargo looms in the quarterfinals.

The bracket stares back at you and it's impossible not to look a couple weeks ahead. Montana versus North Dakota State in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs? Really? Not only could it happen, but it's likely to happen.

The Grizzlies will host either Coastal Carolina or Bethune-Cookman in the second round next Saturday. Naturally, Coastal Carolina (of the Big South) and Bethune-Cookman (of the MEAC) will be up against long odds at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, no matter which one makes the trip.

That's not because they're bad teams. It's because they come from outside the FCS "power conference" structure, don't play against the same regular-season competition and don't have the same playoff chops the Griz or other teams from, say, the Big Sky, Colonial and Missouri Valley conferences do. These matchups almost always go the way of the more powerful team, do they not?

My guess is that Coastal Carolina will beat Bethune-Cookman (the Chanticleers won the same matchup in last year's first round) and move on to face Montana. And, if history is any barometer, the Griz should be able to take care of business vs. CCU in that game.

What about North Dakota State? The Bison will play either South Carolina State (also of the MEAC) or Furman (of the more powerful Southern Conference). No matter who they end up playing, the Bison will be heavy favorites at home as the two-time defending national champs.

November 29, 2013 4:00 pmLoading…
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2013 Montana State Bobcats: The year in review

2013 Montana State Bobcats: The year in review

BITTER OUTCOME: It was a tough end to a season of high expectations for quarterback DeNarius McGhee and Montana State.

The Bobcats started the year ranked No. 2 in the nation and on a mission to live up to high expectations, make a deep playoff run and contend for a national title. And those were legit goals for a team that had won 30 games and made three playoff appearances the previous three seasons.

Here's what Brad Daly told us during Montana State's media day in August:

“I’ve got very, very high expectations for this football team, and I think everybody does. If we don’t win the Big Sky, if we don’t at least make a run at the national championship, everyone on this team is going to be disappointed.”

In the end, disappointment reigned. The Bobcats fell short in 2013: They finished 7-5 and found themselves on the outside looking in on the FCS postseason for the first time since 2009. MSU was very much in they playoff hunt in early November, but a three-game losing streak to end the regular season -- including a 28-14 home loss to rival Montana -- derailed the Cats. 

It's been nearly a week since their season came to an end, so here's a look back at the 2013 Bobcats:

November 27, 2013 8:30 pmLoading…
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Getting to know Coastal Carolina and Bethune-Cookman

Getting to know Coastal Carolina and Bethune-Cookman

PLAYOFF FEVER: Washington-Grizzly Stadium will be the site of a second-round game between Montana and either Coastal Carolina or Bethune-Cookman on Dec. 7.

Alex Bienemann hoped for a first-round playoff bye. The Griz defensive tackle (and the rest of his teammates) had that wish come true with the announcement of the 2013 Division I Football Championship playoff bracket Sunday morning.

Montana got a modest No. 8 seed. The Grizzlies, after a week off, will host a team they've never played in their history -- Coastal Carolina or Bethune-Cookman -- in the second round on Dec. 7. 

Coastal Carolina's campus is in Conway, S.C. Bethune-Cookman is located in Daytona Beach, Fla. So neither team will appreciate the cold temperatures that are likely to greet them in Missoula.

The CCU-BCU first-round game is a rematch from last year's first-round, which Coastal Carolina won 24-14 to advance. Here are a few things you should know about each team:

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers - Big South co-champions

November 25, 2013 8:52 pm Related Loading…
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Montana vs. Montana State postgame

The 113th Cat-Griz game held the same trend as the previous four: The road team came in and took care of business.

The Bobcats had the early momentum on defense, and capitalized on special teams when Shawn Johnson returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown with 3:31 on the clock in the first quarter. But MSU's offense sputtered, just like it did the week prior against Southern Utah. Montana, meanwhile, eventually got its running game going, and Jordan Johnson connected with WR Jamal Jones on a number of key throws in the second half. 

Montana won the game, 28-14. Here are a few early thoughts before we head down to the postgame press conference: 

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Brock Coyle, LB, Montana. A Bozeman native returned to his hometown for his final regular season game and put together a gem. Coyle led the Grizzlies in tackles, had a sack and force two crucial fumbles. His second forced fumble was on Bobcats RB Cody Kirk after Kirk made a big run to midfield early in the fourth quarter. Fellow Griz John Kanongata'a recovered the fumble. Montana had a 14-7 lead at that point, and turned that takeaway into a two-touchdown lead after a 20-yard TD pass from Jordan Johnson to Clay Pierson. 

TURNING POINT: Trailing 7-0 midway through the second quarter, Montana's offense finally came to life. It was here that the Griz started using more zone-read elements in their ground game, and they started to churn out yards. Montana embarked on a crucial, 15-play, 89-yard drive that ate up 6:36 of the second quarter. The Grizzlies converted two third downs and a fourth-down along the way, including a long scramble by QB Jordan Johnson, at the end of which he dove head-first over the first down line. Running back Jordan Canada capped it with a 7-yard TD run, stiff-arming Robert Marshall in the process. This drive gave the Grizzlies the momentum and they kept it the rest of the way.

November 23, 2013 3:00 pm Related Loading…
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Cat-Griz Insider Blog

The Cat-Griz Insider blog is the one-stop spot on the Web for all the news and opinions pertaining to Montana Grizzly and Montana State Bobcat athletics. Comments are open!

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Greg Rachac

Sportswriter for The Billings Gazette covering Montana and Montana State athletics in addition to various high school sports.

Slim Kimmel

Online sports editor for The Billings Gazette.

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