UM Grizzlies vs Tennessee

The University of Montana Grizzlies kicked off their 2011 season at Tennessee. (Grizzly Football Schedule). Whether he’s on the road or at home, Voice of the Griz, Mick Holien will be recapping games each Sunday afternoon (but if a road trip has him back at the MSO airport in the middle of the night–or if we encounter technical difficulties like we did this week, it could be Monday before we post his blog.)

By MICK HOLIEN

You’ve certainly heard of the lull before the storm. And how about the calm in the eye of the hurricane?

The 95,000 fans at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville Saturday night got a taste of about everything weather and more. A pleasant collegiate football afternoon turned nasty for the better part of 45 minutes, sending all but the hearty scurrying for cover and safety.

Of course there were those several thousand who opted to stay in the upper reaches of the stadium and sit it out entertaining themselves with a variety of chants, even the wave, much to the chagrin of authorities who several times had to usher the wanderers out of the area near field level.

On separate occasions authorities also had to chase down, I guess what you might describe as a clothed streaker – if there is such a thing. It is the south you know  – as they made their way onto the stadium floor.

A fast approaching cell swept into the area up the Tennessee River from the south and seems to settle on the Montana-Tennessee venue, bringing first lightning – which required the field to be cleared as per safety policy – just before the coin toss. Then gloomy clouds and blowing torrential rain soaking everything including the press box, which is open-air.

But the drainage on the spectacularly groomed grass surface is amazing and field conditions never were a factor when the teams eventually returned for a 10-minute warm-up period preceding a kickoff that was delayed by almost 100 minutes.

The delay did take some of the luster off the festivities preceding the opener for both teams as the crowd steadily built to an explosion-level, but really were only noticeable when the Vols methodically built a 28-7 halftime lead. Then, except for a few outbursts, the crown seemed to lose interest.

That’s surely not taking anything away from the spectacle that is Tennessee football, but speaks more to the fact after winning 18 straight home openers against teams the fans consider as cannon fodder, sometimes it’s more about the festivities around a night game than it is the competition itself.

One thing is for sure: The Volunteers today know they matched up with a football team from more than 2,000 miles away that kept coming at them for 60 minutes.

And while the resulting score looks like a blowout and indeed, maybe never was in doubt, the Grizzlies have nothing to hang their head about.

They appear to be major injury free – a testament to the work of the J.C. Weida’s training staff and the weight room headed by Rob Oviatt.

For me, Montana’s effort was epitomized by a one-yard goal line stand in the waning seconds when the Vols took a time out to determine how they would punch in an exclamation-mark tally, only to be denied.

A look at the week’s comparative scores surely indicates this season to be a marathon, not a sprint. This game gave the Grizzlies a lot to build on heading into the Cal Poly game on Saturday.

All you can ask for is for a team to play hard — every single play. And for that today, I’m a proud Grizzly.

2011 Opening Season Outlook.

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Now in his 27th year of broadcasting University of Montana football or basketball games, Award winning journalist Mick Holien has a unique and insightful perspective on collegiateathletics.