Friday Night Lights – College Playoffs Return to Montana

It shines in the distance, a beacon of all that’s right with football, nestled between a sleepy beer-first-college-second town and a mountain. And right now, it’s quiet; the relatively new SprinTurf field untouched by cleats. It sits and waits for its cameo, as the lights trucked in by ESPN for the event blaze through the night.

Washington-Grizzly Stadium sits next to a canyon called “Hell Gate,” so named for the ambushes carried out by hoards of Native Americans as white settlers made their way across the Rockies to begin new lives on the Pacific coast. Much blood was spilled in this very spot. Naturally, the powers that be saw fit to add a University to the equation, and in 1986, a football stadium.

Since then, it’s grown into one of the premiere football venues in the nation, the Taj Mahal of I-AA Football, now known as the Football Championship Subdivision, or FCS. Originally, seating was for 12,000, plus end zone grass seating, but the stadium has been expanded numerous times. In 1995, permanent seats were added to the end zone areas, bringing capacity to around 19,000. Corner seating was added in 2003, and a grandstand was added in 2008, complete with a club level and atrium that brought the stadium’s capacity to over 26,000.

It’s big. It’s loud. The seating areas are so close to the field, opposing teams have a hard time hearing, breathing, seeing straight. For most of the kids who come in, this stadium is so much bigger than their home field, it can boggle the mind.

Last week, Montana drubbed upstart Central Arkansas 41-14, in a game almost nobody outside the stadium saw, thanks to ESPN’s contractual stranglehold on the FCS Playoffs. “This is one of the Mt. Rushmore college venues in the country,” Central Arkansas coach Clint Conque said. “You can’t spot a team three turnovers and 17 points like that. We really dug ourselves a hole.”

Friday night’s matchup with Northern Iowa (ESPN, 8pm ET) figures to be a bit more even; the Panthers have already knocked off several ranked teams on their way to and through the playoffs, but they’re catching Montana at a bad time, with the Grizzlies having won their last 8 games, all but one by double digits. Playing at home, in the playoffs, the Griz are almost untouchable. And after Montana missed the playoffs last year, for the first time in 19 years, Griz fans and players alike are hungry to turn a page and get back to National Championship-level play.

If the Penn State scandal, or the University of Miami scandal, or the USC scandal have you down on college football, look no further than ESPN on Friday night. See the game played the right way, by kids who are just looking for a full ride scholarship and a chance to win some football games. See games that matter in December. See a champion crowned on the field because of what they accomplished there, not due to some pandering in a conference room in a tower in the sky. See kids that really care about their University, playing for pride and a shot at the championship, because here every game really does matter.

Watch and see what real championship football looks like (hint: it’s not settled by guys in suits and ties). Watch and see how much better it is on the good side.

Then join the growing chorus of voices, screaming for the death of the BCS and the rise of a playoff system in major college football.

Oh, and as for this game, make mine Montana 31, UNI 20.

Comments

  1. BRING ‘EM OUT, BRING ‘EM OUT, BRING ‘EM OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Go Griz.

  3. Thanks! We are proud we have kids that play for the love of the game. It’s GREAT to be apart of the GRIZ-Nation.
    GO-GRIZ!

  4. montanakate says:

    WE ARE GRIZ NATION!!!! WGS will be rockin’ tonight!!!

  5. Time to die, UNI. Bring on the kittens for round two.

  6. Glenn Berglund says:

    When I saw the name of this blog and that it was about the upcoming Montana/UNI game I thought it was about what happened the last time UNI was in Missoula for a game. For those who missed it, here is your Daily Dickpunch from December 15, 2001.

    Dave DeCoite Punched from fanplay on Vimeo.

  7. Go Griz! Great article, but Hells Gate wasn’t named that because of Indians attacking settlers, it was named that because French Trappers who followed Lewis and Clarks path west came into the valley and saw remains of Salish Indians who had been killed by Blackfeet Indians.

    It was native on native violence that gave the canyon it’s name, not native and settler conflict.

  8. Magic Sam says:

    Thanks for setting me straight, Grrizz! I’d never heard that before. But either, way… GO GRIZ!

  9. Let’s go Griz!

  10. Cal Poly Bill says:

    Great article; Washington Grizzly Stadium Rocks! It’s an absolute shame that Div 1A does not have playoffs. We should boycott the BCS games to show our disgust.

    • Tony Herbert says:

      Great article and you are absolutely right Cal Poly Bill. If we all boycotted BCS games things would change. If we don’t it never will. Let’s start a movement, called Occupy BCS.

  11. GO GRIZ!

  12. “If the Penn State scandal, or the University of Miami scandal, or the USC scandal have you down on college football, look no further than ESPN on Friday night. See the game played the right way, by kids who are just looking for a full ride scholarship and a chance to win some football games.”

    Give me a break! Why isn’t that fact that Trumaine Johnson is still playing after obstructing a peace officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest not a scandal? I bet it becomes one as soon as the Griz football season ends. Hopefully sooner than later!

    • You must be a Bobcat and/or so called “peace officer”, either way you should get your facts straight before judging a situation that you were not a witness too. And by the way , this affects your life,how? These are kids that I hope learn from their mistakes…by the way, how old are you?

  13. martin kaldahl says:

    The best college football atmosphere anywhere!!

  14. What a great article. All of us in Griz nation feel this way about the FCS and Washington Grizzly Stadium. We consider it an honor to be a part of it and we honor and enjoy all of the teams and fans that we get to know hosting these excellent events. Welcome back UNI. We look forward to playing your team again!!

  15. That’s right, baby! GO GRIZ!!!!

  16. Pat Coyle says:

    It will be a perfect cold winter night
    ESPN has brought in the light
    With football in hand and
    Fans in the stands
    The Griz can make playoffs
    seem so right.

  17. Cassie Gruebele says:

    Thanks to the Griz for an early Christmas present:) Let’s keep it going!!! We Believe!!!

  18. Excellent story.

  19. Tony Romo said in an interview when asked about the effect of crowd noise after game against Seattle “I played at Washington Grizzly Stadium, I know all about crowd noise”.

    Trying to find a link to it on youtube but can’t.

  20. Missoula Griz Fan says:

    We love our Griz!! Thanks for this great article.

  21. Montana Grizzly Bob says:

    Great Atmosphere for a Friday Night Football Game. The BCS and all of the Bowl games could really get a clue how to make a National champion. The Bottom line you win, you keep playing, you lose, you go home. That’s the recipe of how a National Champion should be crowned. Thanks for the great article.

  22. BRING IT!! Goooo Griz!!

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