Griz Have Waited A Long Time For This Game With NDSU

By JIM O’DAY

The Montana Grizzlies may have their work cut out for them this Saturday in Fargo, N.D., but they also have an opportunity to return UM to a status of NCAA Division I FCS superiority with a victory over the North Dakota State University Bison. Montana goes into the game with a 2-1 record, and No. 4 ranking. The Bison, coming off three consecutive national titles, are 3-0 and top ranked.

Since the 2011 football season, the Griz have only been in the playoffs once – that being a 42-35 loss to Coastal Carolina in Missoula last December. Since a 31-28 setback to Sam Houston State in the quarterfinal round of the 2011 playoffs, the Griz have not made a run deep into the playoffs. In fact, over the past three years, UM has defeated only one Division 1 team with a winning record – that being Montana State (7-5) last November in Bozeman, 28-14.  Montana’s last appearance in the National Championship game was in 2009 when the Grizzlies were edged by Villanova, 23-21. From 1995-2009, UM played in the title contest in Chattanooga, Tenn., seven times over a 15-year period. The last Griz playoff win came on Dec. 9, 2011, in a memorable 48-10 triumph over Northern Iowa in a game televised nationally by ESPN2 under the lights at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. That victory, however, was later vacated by NCAA penalties, thus making the “official” most recent playoff win another epic ESPN battle against Appalachian State that was won by the Griz, 24-17, on Dec. 12, 2009.

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Photo by ©Mark Mesenko forMakeItMissoula.com

Since that time, there have been many changes.  The championship game has switched sites from Chattanooga to Frisco, Texas; the Big Sky Conference has expanded; Montana has not won a conference title (the one in 2011 was vacated due to the NCAA penalties); and North Dakota State has become one of the most dominant team in FCS history.  Eastern Washington and Sam Houston State have been their closest challengers to the throne over that time.  As an exclamation point, NDSU has also recorded five consecutive pre-season wins over schools from Bowl Championship Subdivision conferences, the most recent being Aug. 30 on the road against Iowa State of the Big 12 Conference, 34-14.

Now Montana has a chance to regain its mojo, and claim its spot amongst the elite at the FCS level. It should be a heck of a game, and one that will definitely catch the attention of the FCS followers across the country.

Griz Football Flag… Saturday’s game between the Montana Grizzlies and the North Dakota State University Bison has been a game in waiting for many years. Although considered a “rivalry,” the two schools have meet only six times on the gridiron – the last being Sept. 6, 2003, when Montana held a 24-2 halftime lead, only to fall 25-24 to the Bison who were moving up to the FCS level from Division II at the time. The other games in recent history were in the 1969 and 1970 Camellia Bowls – both claimed by NDSU (30-3 in 1969 and 31-16 in 1970).  Montana’s wins in the series came in 1914, 1921 and1941.

… NDSU also elapsed UM’s record of 24 straight victories this year (Montana shared the FCS record during a run from 2001-02). Heading into Saturday’s contest in the Fargodome, the Bison have been victorious 27 consecutive games – the last loss coming to Indiana State at home on Oct. 13, 2012.

… As part of the home-and-home schedule with NDSU that was signed back in 2011, the Bison return to Missoula next season.  Currently, the game is slated to be played on Sept. 5, 2015, in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.  There is some speculation the contest may be an ESPN Kick-Off Classic, similar to Sam Houston State at Eastern Washington last month.  A lot might depend on the result of this Saturday’s game, and how the two teams finish the rest of the season.

 

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Jim O’Day was Director of Athletics at the University of Montana from 2005-2012. He also served as the Assistant Director of the Grizzly Athletic Association (1998-2000) and later as the Director of Development for UM Intercollegiate Athletics (2000-2005).

Prior to returning to his alma mater in 1998, O’Day was the owner/publisher of the family-owned Western Breeze newspaper in Cut Bank, MT. He was also sports editor of the Kalispell Daily Interlake from 1980-82.

In late 2013, Jim started his own consulting business, O’Day Enterprises, LLC.  His main clients include Farran Realty Partners, a private equity real estate development/investment firm based in Missoula; Epio Solutions of Seattle/Missoula, an agency primarily focused on branding/marketing/public relations utilizing various social media platforms for businesses, universities, non-profits and individuals; and BancVue, a company based in Austin, Texas, that aligns itself with small community banks and credit unions across the country to compete against the large mega banks. In addition, Jim is consulting for various oil and gas firms, as well as providing valuable professional resource services for intercollegiate athletics, fund-raising, capital raises, employment opportunities, etc. 

Jim and his wife Kathy have three sons: Chris, Kevin and Brian – all three graduates of The University of Montana.

 

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