Sometimes Good Teams Have to ‘Win Ugly’

10/17 Blog by “Voice of the Griz” Mick Holien.

On a day when four of the top 10 FSCS schools were defeated, (albeit three by teams listed below them in the top 25 Sports Network/ poll) the Grizzlies pulled off a miracle win on a walk-off field goal to win a fourth consecutive game and keep their title hopes fully alive.

Montana will easily move solidly back into the Top 10 after sneaking past Portland State on Brody McKnight’s third field goal of the evening with no time remaining on the clock.   But more importantly, they climb into a first-place tie in the Big Sky Conference standings with Montana State and Eastern Washington.   Of course the Eagles currently have the tiebreaker having defeated Montana and the Cat game is yet on the horizon at the end of November.

How you win a game like that one Saturday night in Hillsboro, Oregon is no secret but it’s something that hadn’t yet been accomplished by the 2010 group and could well prove vitally important in the rest of the season.

Make no mistake. There was not a doubt in my mind that Montana would give McKnight a chance for the game winner, and not even a thought he’d miss, but it sure isn’t a given when you’re down to crunch time.  No matter the reliability of the kicker, they don’t always produce a game winning walk-off.

All one has to do is remember back to Dan Carpenter’s last field goal attempt to beat Wofford in the 2007 playoffs in Missoula, when the season came crashing to an end after a 23-22 loss when the game-winner went awry.

Then take a look at what the Helena product has done since then. What is it that they say—‘you’re only as good as your last kick, or your last pass, or your last runback’.

But here was the case where McKnight, who turns 21 on Wednesday, was quite frankly “at his best when his best was needed.” And as I said on the last drive, I truly did believe the Grizzlies had Portland State right where they wanted them – back on their haunches trying to keep the most successful team in the FCS for the last decade from driving the field with 2½ minutes left to pull off a road win when they had not performed well enough to claim the victory.

That’s what good teams do–win ugly–and it was indeed at times ugly.

Assistant coach Scott Gragg put it in the best perspective in the post-game when he pointed out that this 2010 edition of “a work in progress” had not done what other Griz teams in the past sometimes routinely pulled off — performing at “crunch time.”

Well they have now. The immediacy and precision of the last drive could go far in propelling the Grizzlies through the remainder of the season and into post-season play.

They are a banged up unit which suffered another serious, probably career-ending injury, on Saturday.  But they did what just four other big Sky Conference teams, including Montana, have done during the league season — they won a road game.  And while it’s just plain hard to win period, it’s even more difficult in the opponent’s venue.

And after Northern Arizona hammered the Cats Saturday, you know just how big this week’s game is against the Lumberjacks — especially since former Grizzly assistant Jerome Souers has never defeated Montana since taking the NAU helm.

So like that last kick, what have you done for me lately?

Back to Mick it Missoula Blog home page.