We are now only weeks away from the beginning of the college football season here in the state of Montana. The last time fans saw the Cats and the Griz take the field, Montana State was pulling off one of the best upsets in the history of the rivalry. Now, with a full offseason under their belts, one team is looking to continue momentum. The other? Trying to find it again.
The Brawl of the Wild game last season was not decided on “the play”; Cats freshman quarterback Chris Murray summersaulting into the end zone. But it sure set the tone as Montana State came into Washington-Grizzly and upset a heavily favored Griz team on the verge of the playoffs. And that win alone summersaulted them into the offseason.
“That is such an important game in the state of Montana. So I told our guys, we are on a two game winning steak, but that doesn’t matter come September 2nd when we play Washington State.” says Montana State Head Coach Jeff Choate.
Going into year two under Jeff Choate, Montana State is still rebuilding. But according to the players, Choate’s personality is already stamped on this year’s team.
“Show up, work, keep your head down. Work as hard as you can. Look at the results after you are done, and not worry about it in between.” says Montana State linebacker Mac Bignell.
And according to the second year coach, the season will be defined by not where they finish in the standings or win column, but how they establish themselves for the 20-18 season.
“Position ourselves for a winning season and a playoff birth, I think that you are probably looking at 2018 saying that is going to be a pretty good football team.” Choate says.
As for Montana, last season could not have finished quicker. The team struggled down the stretch, dropping four of their last five games, finishing at 6-5. And for the team, the offseason was a wake up call.
“Don’t let last year happen again. Kind of work together as a team, come closer as a team. And this summer was working out with the boys, working out with the guys, and continue to get better.” says senior center Cooper Sprunk.
Montana’s schedule will set up perfectly this season, as they welcome Eastern, North Dakota, and NAU all into Washington Grizzly.
“If you can have some of the better teams come to our place, I think it is an advantage.” says Montana Head Coach Bob Stitt.
Ever since the Griz walked off their home turf, having lost the Brawl of the Wild for the first time in four years, this season has been called a redemption tour.
“We have a lot of confidence in our players." says Stitt. "We have a stronger team mentally than we had last year. We are very very talented also, and when you put those two things together, you are going to have great success. So I am excited to get back on the field and see what these kids can do."
Both teams begin their season Saturday, September 2nd. Montana State will be in Pullman to take on the Washington State Cougars, and Montana will welcome Valparaiso to Missoula.
Stay with ABC Fox Montana and SWX the entire month of August as we will break down these two teams more in depth, and get you ready for the 2017 college football season.