Bearkats look to knock out Montana State for second consecutive year
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 00:12
Same opponent. Same round. Different stage. The Sam Houston State Bearkats (9-3) head north for another bout with No.3 Montana State (11-1) in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Quarterfinals in Bozeman, Montana this Friday.
Sam Houston rolled up 428 rushing yards and allowed just 77 yards on the ground in last year’s playoff encounter with the Bobcats; forcing two turnovers and a blocked field goal to seal a 49-13 win. Although some of the same ingredients arise in this year’s contest, Coach Willie Fritz recognized the challenges of playing at “Big Sky Country”.
“We’ve heard it is extremely loud up there”, Coach Willie Fritz spoke of Bozeman. ”It’s a closed-in stadium and the crowd does a really nice job of yelling at the right times. I’ve had some people tell me it’s the loudest venue they have ever played.”
In order to prepare the Bearkats for Bozeman’s brand of battle, hostile pre-recorded crowd noises blared through the public address speakers of Bowers Stadium during practice. Congruent with the “Sweat more in peace, bleed less in war” mentality, the ‘Kats hope to be ready for Montana State’s unwelcoming decibels.
Montana State finished in a three-way tie atop the Big Sky Conference standings with a 7-1 record. The Bobcats are 6-1 at home this season and are 18-3 at home during the past three seasons. MSU coach Rob Ash earned his 50th career win at Montana State last week, while sharing the AFCA regional coaching honor with Coach Fritz.
“Coach Ash and his staff at Montana State do a tremendous job, Fritz said. “We have a little familiarity with them with playing them last year. They’re a 4-3 defense that can blitz and play man. They’re a really technically sound and disciplined football team. They play with great leverage, tackle well, and don’t give up easy plays.”
Montana State defensive end Caleb Schreibeis, a candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award, leads the nation with eight forced fumbles, while linebacker Jody Owens was named the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year.
Quarterback DeNarius McGhee won offensive player of the year for the second time in three seasons. He has completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 2,726 yards with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions this year. McGhee has thrown a touchdown pass in each of the 36 games he has played, and has a total of 70 in his career.
Montana State is converting 49.5 percent of its third downs, which ranks 11th in the nation and third among remaining playoff games. Montana State's defense is fourth in the nation in third-down conversion percentage, allowing opponents to convert just 28.98 percent of the time. Montana State's 11 wins are its most in a season since winning 12 in its 1984 national championship season.
Even though the Bearkats emerged victorious against the same opponent in the 2011 quarterfinals, the men in orange remain level headed.
“We go out every week and try to be 1-0 each game,” Fritz said. “We can’t worry about things that happened last year…this is the 2012 Bearkats versus the 2012 Bobcats.”
Bearkat defensive lineman Gary Lorance spoke of his philosophy on playing football 1,328 miles away from Bowers Stadium this Friday.
“We just have to take everything how we usually do here at home”, Lorance said. “It’s the same game; just in a different setting. When we get there it’s going to be all on us. We may not have a lot of our fans traveling, but we have plenty of people watching us back home. We’re going to try to put on a show for all our fans back here.”
The game will air nationally on ESPN 2 at 7 p.m. central time Friday night.