I can never remember the names of all the college football bowl games, and I’m glad. This year’s bowl season features 35 games over-wrapped in commercials and product placement. The so-called “national championship” is in itself a ridiculous name (a computer picks the matchup, after all) but the game’s title is not nearly as daffy as 90 percent of the other bowls’.
The “Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.” The “Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.” The “Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.” The “Purina Puppy Chow Bowl.”
Guess which one of those isn’t real? (OK, it’s the Puppy Chow Bowl. Although I’d definitely remember and watch that one.)
There is one bowl game that sticks out in my mind this season and it’s the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas featuring Arizona State University (6-6) and seventh-ranked Boise State University (11-1) on Thursday night. The game will be on ESPN at 6 p.m.
Since I have no clue what or who MAACO is, I’ve decided to simply call this the “Montana Bowl” because there are a few interesting storylines directly related to our state.
First and foremost, Brock Osweiler, the great Kalispell product, is finishing up what could be a record-breaking season as the starting QB for ASU. The Flathead High graduate is 237 yards shy of Andrew Walter’s 2002 school record for passing yards in a single season. Brock, a junior, has thrown for 3,641 yards and 24 TDs. Brock was the ninth-ranked passer in the nation this season with 303 yards per game on average.
In comparison, his Boise State equivalent Kellen Moore, the winningest quarterback in college football history, threw for 3,507 yards and 41 TDs this season.
In his first year as an every-game starter, Brock helped the Sun Devils reach the postseason for the first time since 2007. Brock had ASU in the hunt for a Pac-12 Championship game appearance after the Sun Devils won six of their first eight games, including an impressive win over ranked Missouri. But something went wrong (the defense needs a little work and so does the field goal kicker) and ASU ended the season on a four-game losing skid.
ASU’s outgoing head coach Dennis Erickson could be wrapping up one of the most successful careers in recent college football history. And it all started in Montana. The hall of famer, who has 179 career college wins, sixth most among current coaches, started his collegiate career as a QB at Montana State University. Erickson went on to earn all-conference honors in the Big Sky twice and became a graduate assistant after graduating. After leaving to coach at Billings Central for a year, he returned to MSU as an assistant coach in 1971. After three years in Bozeman, Erickson went on to the University of Idaho, where he would later become the head coach in 1981.
Erickson moved on throughout his career several times with stints at the University of Miami, where he replaced Jimmy Johnson and won two national championships, and with the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Erickson will coach his final game at ASU this Thursday.
Montana high school football fans likely remember Helena native Matt Miller. I sure do. Matt was one of the best prep athletes I’ve seen and it’s not that surprising he’s Boise State’s second leading receiver and destroyed the freshman school record for catches.
Matt, a freshman who tore his Achilles before last season and used a redshirt, has 58 catches (the previous record was 46), 647 yards and eight TDs, including one recent TD catch he made while lying on his back in the end zone that replayed on SportsCenter for awhile.
Other Montana ties include Aaron Pflugrad, the “playmaker” for ASU and the team’s second leading receiver. Aaron, a senior, is the son of Montana Grizzly head football coach Robin Pflugrad. He was born in Missoula when his dad was an assistant coach for the Griz and went to high school in Eugene, Ore., at Sheldon High. Aaron played for the Ducks for two seasons before transferring to ASU. He has 620 yards and five TDs.
And somewhat unrelated but still worth mentioning, there’s Bobby Hauck, the former Montana Grizzly head coach and current UNLV coach. Hauck is still trying to establish a successful program in Las Vegas (the Rebels are 4-22 the last two seasons under Hauck). But the athletic department must have faith in him as of now because they signed him to a two-year extension through 2014 this fall.
Hauck was born in Missoula and grew up in Big Timber. His brother Tim was a standout player who had a nice NFL career. The Haucks’ father, Bob Sr., was the athletic director at my high school, Loyola Sacred Heart, in Missoula. He was one of the nicest and most respected men I’ve ever met and was truly a class act.
Am I missing someone else who has ties to Big Sky Country and will be within the vicinity of this game? If I did, let me know and I’ll share it with everyone. It’s always fun to see local talent on the big stage. That’s why this Thursday night I’ll be watching the Montana Puppy Chow Bowl.
Merry Christmas everyone!
UPDATED: From a fantasy football opponent of mine, Joel Rosenberg, here’s some more Montana connections: Boise State’s offensive coordinator is Brent Pease who played for the Grizzlies and later was the OC from 1991-96. “Actually, I think half of Boise State’s staff coached at MSU at some point.”
UPDATED (Dec. 23): Last night BSU looked like it took out its anger on ASU for being placed in the Las Vegas Bowl.
But there was plenty to celebrate for Montana fans who just wanted to see some local talent do well.
Brock finished his first full season as starting QB with a record-breaking performance. The Flathead High graduate passed for 395 yards and broke both the Las Vegas Bowl passing record and Andrew Walter’s 2002 school record for passing yards in a single season. Brock, a junior, finished with 4,036 yards, 26 TDs and 13 INTs.
Early word coming out of Tempe, Ariz., is that Brock is expected to return to college next year instead of entering the NFL Draft, even though the coaching staff is almost completely depleted at this point. I’m happy either way because I know we haven’t seen the last of our 6-foot-8 native playing in the national spotlight.
Miller caught four passes for 32 yards and a TD, and also threw for a score. The redshirt freshman finished the season destroying the school record for catches as a rookie with 62 (the old record was 46). Miller had 679 yards and nine TDs.