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COLUMN: Looking toward a more perfect Saturday

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | November 17, 2021 9:29 PM

I, for one, am not as upset as some Montanans about College GameDay, the long-running, Saturday morning, football-centric show on ESPN not coming in for the Cat-Griz game this week.

I don’t appreciate the Twitter trolling, though.

“A TOP-10 SHOWDOWN WITH PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS,” (Hey, that’s us!) is how the tweet began, and then below that: “Columbus, you’re up next!” (Yikes, I don’t know if Graham Field is ready for this).

So the home of The Ohio State Buckeyes, not our high school Cougars, will host GameDay, and for the 20th time. If it had been Missoula there would have been at last 20 times the angry college football fans lighting up the mentions.

It is what it is. It’s awful late in the year, when rivalry games flood the landscape, for an FCS school to land such a well-known if at times painful-to-watch show. North Dakota State has hosted twice, but it was in week 3 of 2014 and week 4 the season before that.

ROOT Sports having the ability to block the game from ESPN+ maybe didn’t help. At any rate there will be enough podcasts and blog posts (and columns) to fill your brain ahead of the 120th renewal of this classic rivalry.

It didn’t seem all that likely the Griz would be in this position, ranked No. 7 in the division, given their losses at Eastern Washington and at home to Sacramento State.

The offensive performance against Sac State was mediocre and signaled two losses in three games. That gave any columnist enough ammo to vent about a spread offense that didn’t spread the field at all.

Two reasons to hold off: Hornets’ second-year coach Troy Taylor was 11-1 in Big Sky Conference games (he’s now 15-1), and Idaho was up next. Post-Dennis Erickson and John L Smith, the Vandals have been pretty much a Griz tonic.

So now the Grizzlies are 8-2 and probably FCS tournament-bound, though they’d like UC Davis not to beat Sac State this weekend — you know, just in case. The Bobcats are No. 3, and favored to win on the road.

There are Class B kids playing (Eureka’s Garrett Graves and Townsend’s Jace Lewis for UM, Huntley Project’s Lane Sumner for MSU), and Glacier High is represented on both sides (Patrick O’Connell, Henry Nuce, Drew Turner and Drew Deck for the Griz; Tadan Gilman and Jarrett Kessler for the Cats).

It’s an amazing game, which regrettably for a lot of us runs concurrent with a handful of state championships, every year.

In a more perfect union, we’d have the best of both Montana sporting worlds: state championships one day, Cat-Griz the next.

Chasing perfection, like the game of football, is difficult.

Just as I’m sure it was a tough call for ESPN, with JK Simmons and Jeff Ament and Michael Keaton chiming in to bring GameDay to the Garden City. In the end, ESPN did what it always does; so does the MHSA. This Saturday both are missing out.

Sports writer Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 406-758-4463 or fneighbor@dailyinterlake.com.