I have no intentions of delving deep into the debate over whether the Bowl Championship Series – bluntly reduced to the three-letter burp “BCS” – is the proper system to decide the champion of big-time college football. Suffice it to say, it’s not.
But while coaches and sportswriters beat this dead horse over the next couple of weeks, let us take time to appreciate the system that is now giving University of Montana football fans legitimate reason to be excited about the postseason. This system is called the playoffs, and it’s used in the Football Championship Subdivision as well as every other team sport in NCAA-sanctioned athletics, regardless of division or gender.
With this system, a somewhat surprising Grizzlies team is marching through the playoffs and making football fun for UM fans. Ask Texas fans how fun football is right now. The Grizzlies have a real shot at the national championship, while Texas is playing for third-place or worse, even though the Longhorns have a convincing case to be playing in the title game..
I graduated from the University of Montana. When I was going to college, I covered football for the school newspaper and therefore spent all of the home games sitting in a press box and following the journalistic ethics code that asks reporters not to cheer for one team over the other. Of course, this code is often broken. With that said, I can now freely voice my disdain of opposing teams and cheer loudly for the Grizzlies, taking part in that time-honored American tradition of yelling at television screens. I enjoy it.
The feel-good story of the Grizzlies’ impressive run is Chase Reynolds. I recall reading about Reynolds when he was running kids over in eight-man football at Drummond High School. Now the sophomore is routinely breaking records, including a handful previously held by Kalispell’s own Lex Hilliard.
Reynolds isn’t huge, nor does he possess Barry Sanders-like shiftiness. But he understands how to get first downs and gets them a lot. He does it by running hard, and then when he’s hit, he runs harder. The first man rarely takes him down. He’s listed as only 6 feet, 200 pounds, but I’m sure a handful of opposing linebackers are demanding a revised weigh-in.
The Grizzlies handled Texas State in the first-round and then Weber State in the second. Now they face No. 1 James Madison, the team that beat the Grizzlies in the 2004 national championship. In that game, UM took a 21-17 lead in the third quarter, led by quarterback Craig Ochs. But the Griz couldn’t stop James Madison’s rushing attack and ended up losing 31-21.
I was at that game in Chattanooga, where rain and poor field maintenance created the soggiest playing surface I’ve ever seen. Watching the Griz give up the national championship on that rainy night was a tough pill to swallow. It would be a fitting addition to Grizzly football lore for UM to avenge that loss this Friday in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.
The game, held at James Madison, starts at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 12. It will be televised on ESPN2.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.