Courtesy Brandon K. Scott / Bearkat Athletics / GoBearkats.com
There won’t be much time to waste this weekend for what appears to be the best Bearkat football team ever.
The NCAA Division I Football Championship quarterfinal matchup against the Montana State Bobcats (10-2) is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Bowers Stadium.
It will be the earliest time the Bearkats have played this season.
Could this impact the way undefeated Sam Houston State (12-0) prepares for the next step towards a national championship?
“We’re going to handle everything just like a regular work week,” head coach Willie Fritz said on Sunday. “The only thing that is going to be different is the time of the ball game.”
The Bearkat coaching staff used Sunday, until about 11 p.m. to break down game film on Montana State.
Sam Houston’s graduate assistants had already started the scouting process before the Bearkats’ win over Stony Brook on Saturday, just in case.
The staff will go over the film with its players today and have the game plan mapped out by Tuesday. according to Fritz.
Montana State is a well-balanced team that puts up points just as well as Stony Brook.
In fact, of their 10 wins this season, nine of them came when the Bobcats scored 30 or more points. The Bobcats were the No. 1 team in the nation during the final weeks of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision season.
Only on Saturday, when Montana State inched its way past New Hampshire 26-25 because of a blocked point after attempt, was the team held under 30 points and allowed less than 400 yards of total offense in victory.
The Bobcats overcame mistakes in that game and were given a gift by New Hampshire.
Montana State won despite four turnovers that led directly to 14 points for New Hampshire, a blocked extra point that was returned for a two-point conversion and a shanked punt that led to what would’ve been the tying score had New Hampshire kicker Mike MacArthur’s extra-point not been partially blocked.
The win marked Montana State’s seventh come-from-behind victory.
The only blemishes on the Bobcats’ 10-2 record this year were a 27-10 loss the BCS opponent Utah on the road in Montana State’s opener and a 36-10 loss at home to fellow NCAA Division I quarterfinalist Montana in the duo’s regular season final game.
Along the way the Bobcats ran up a 36-21 victory over last year’s NCAA Division I national champion Eastern Washington and 328 points in their other eight wins.
Sam Houston and Montana State have a long history of exciting games. The Bearkats defeated the Bobcats 23-6 in the first game played in a brand new Elliott T. Bowers Stadium in 1986. In 1987, MSU edged the Kats in a 52-48 shootout in Bozeman
The Bobcats won 15-10 in Huntsville on their second visit to Bower Stadium to open the 1989 season. Sam Houston bounced back from a 20-0 first quarter deficit in Bozeman to earn a 26-23 victory in the pair’s last meeting in 1991.
As Sam Houston’s junior safety Darnell Taylor put it at Saturday’s post-game press conference, the Bearkats found themselves in a dogfight against Stony Brook.
With Montana State’s reputation of resilience this season, the quarterfinal matchup is likely to be similar to the previous one.
“We want to play assignment-sound football,” Fritz added. “We missed on a couple opportunities on Saturday for some really big hits and big plays. We had a couple of drops and were a little out of sync with our throwing game but we reall came out and played a fantastic second half.
“Defensively, we have to do a better job with our eyes. Don’t go until you know.”