Two decades of lopsided wins and dominant performances give Montana the upper hand — and a heavy swagger — on North Dakota in their annual all-star football clash.
This year the North Dakotans get a chance for a little redemption on their home turf. The 21st Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl kicks off Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Biesiot Activities Center in Dickinson, N.D.
The Montana team, with a spread offense helmed by Bozeman quarterback and Montana Griz recruit Will Weyer, wants to keep the status quo: The Treasure State, which owns a 15-5 series lead, has lost only three Badlands Bowl games on North Dakota soil.
“The coaches remind us that it’s 15-5 and after this weekend it’s going to be 16-5,” said Billings Skyview offensive lineman Trevor Hopf. “All of Montana is looking up to us to make sure that we keep that record going.”
Talent, it seems, has meshed with experience, smarts and efficiency all week. Bozeman’s Troy Purcell, the coach for the Montanans, said things have gone so well in preparations that some practices were shortened.
One focus was to study North Dakota’s tactics on film, and get a sense of what it might do both offensively and defensively under Minot coach Barry Holmen.
“We’ve seen a little bit of film on them and the coaches have talked to us about what they’re doing,” Weyer said. “It sounds like they bring a lot of pressure a lot of the time and play a lot of man coverage. We’re going to have to work around that and work with our offense to (attack) that.”
Purcell described the opposing offense with a dizzying litany of football terminology. In simpler terms, North Dakota will employ a fly-sweep offense with play-action to set up throws to the outside, in the flat, and over the top.
North Dakota has six players headed to play for three-time reigning Football Championship Subdivision champion North Dakota State, including Tanner Volson of Balfour, N.D., and Luke Bacon of Granville, N.D. Both are 6-foot-5, 280-pound offensive linemen.
Two others have signed with the University of North Dakota of the Big Sky Conference, including 6-2, 200-pound Jacob Holmen, the coach’s son.
“We are real happy with the 34 kids we have out here,” Barry Holmen told The Dickinson Press. “Up front, we have some nice size and very athletic kids. You look at our linemen and I’m going to guess at least eight or nine of them were state qualifiers in track and field recently.
“We have some kids who are in good shape up front and they have some explosiveness. We have some kids with exceptional speed.”
The game will be streamed live at www.badlandsbowl.com.