By MICK HOLIEN
The two things I’ve come to understand in a lifetime of sports are: there’s as always much uncertainty waiting just around the corner and there are no givens.
The teams and individuals that figure that out enjoy far more success than the ones that don’t. For some reason there are teams that expect a particular outcome to occur just by showing up and then fail to work to achieve the expected result.
I guess that’s just a long way of saying that in 27 years of broadcasting University of Montana sports, the Grizzly and Lady Griz teams have seldom been unprepared. I know of very few times when one of our teams looked past an opponent.
Just as an example, each week this year’s Griz football team receives a schedule card with all games on it blacked out – except for the current week’s opponent. I know it’s a small thing, but it’s a subtle – or not so subtle – way for coaches to make sure players understand that this is the only game this week. Nothing else matters.
Now you might think that is sheer rhetoric – “coach speak” if you will – which I’ve often spewed forth when I’m interviewed about what I think might lie ahead.
Then why is it that teams often suffer either a Grizzly hangover after pinning all their fortunes – win or lose – on playing against the University of Montana? Or they suffer Grizzly menopause in the week prior to a Grizzly game?
Thus, we have the results of Eastern Washington and Sacramento State on Saturday.
With a target on their forehead, Eastern Washington – after dominating the University if Washington in Seattle– lost. And the Hornets racked up what might have been the most significant football victory in the program’s D-1 history by going into Corvallis and defeating Oregon State.
In no way do I intend to demean the victorious performance of either South Dakota or Southern Utah, and it surely could be argued that there is so much parity in the FCS ranks that “any given Saturday” reigns supreme. But in order to win more games than any D-1 program – which Montana has done – you have to respect all opponents, fear none, and prepare for each game as if it were your last.
Credit given where credit is due. That always has been, and will continue to be, the mantra in the Pflu era. That’s what Grizzly football is all about.
But it’s one thing to talk the talk – and quite another to walk the walk.
No, there’s no doubt I wear rosy-colored glasses in search for the Golden Fleece – go ahead and Google it – but when you ask around you’ll find there’s good reason for my optimism.
And for you nay sayers who hated the first half on Saturday, remember that a regulation game takes 60 minutes to play. Adjustments on both sides of the football are what lead to success.
In my mind, there will never be a UM team that comes to a game being unprepared to succeed.
And while we’re at it, let me the first to draw a comparison between sophomore quarterback Jordie Johnson and the legendary Dave Dickenson, who always will be the measuring stick. Albeit a young puppy, Johnson has that inane sense of the field, that feel for the game and situations, that is rarely present in a young player.
While the Grizzlies can’t allow him to continue to be hit, his fearless leadership might well produce a banner season.
That does not mean Montana will defeat Eastern Washington next week, or even that they will win the league and be back in the playoffs. But I do think it bodes well for accomplishing the goals this team has set for themselves.
So was it a great afternoon or what?