1453485_10152067070604548_60693553_n… of the Montana Grizzlies will not be entrusted to the timid, or the weak.

12 months ago Griz Nation was facing a long winter. Our star QB was awaiting trial and had missed the whole season. The team had its first losing record since the mid 80’s. And the Cats came to Missoula and took the divide trophy back. The coaching situation was a mess, assistant coaches jumped ship, so much was unknown.

Fast forward to today. The divide trophy is coming home. The Griz finished 10-2 in the regular season. Jordan Johnson was found not guilty of the accusations made against him and he’s had a triumphant return to the team. New, and highly committed coaches have arrived, and the total effort and output on the field has vastly improved. It’s not been without it’s bumps but as of right now – it feels damn good to be a Grizzly.

If I were to give the game ball I’d hand it to Brock Coyle. I don’t know if I’ve recently seen such a single defensive performance by a player in a while. Brock was a hard collision away from forcing 3 turnovers himself, but regardless, 2 forced fumbles and 1 sack. If the ESPN play by play comes out correct I count 17 tackles! Wow. His 2nd forced fumble killed the little bit of life the MSU offense had in them and was key in keeping the cats cold until late in the game. Coyle was all smiles on TV, and deservedly so, going to his hometown, a senior, his last Griz-cat, and playing that way. Wow.

Shortly behind Brock some major props need to be given to Jordan Johnson for one of the more clutch efforts in a Griz-cat game I’ve seen. This game was pressure packed, and Jordy settled down after a real ugly 1st quarter and made some very impressive throws and runs – especially on 3rd down. The Griz I believed opened the game 0-6 on 3rd down and finished 7-17 in the stat book so that means 7-11 in the 2nd quarter on. Many of which were amazing throws and plays by Jordy, keeping plays alive with his feet or putting a tight pass right on the money.

Cam Warren might not have had the best statistical game of the year, but he was so incredibly clutch at the right time. His 4 catches for 52 yards I think 2 or 3 converted 3rd downs and the other got the Griz off the 2 yard line. While the stats don’t tell the story he was such a key player at the right time.

I’ll have to go back and look to see which poster on here said Jamaal Jones would be the surprise player of the game. That was dead on. Some big time catch and run plays but nothing better than a nice grab on 3rd down with a well thrown and well defended back shoulder fade.

Jordan Canada kept at it and his 2 TD runs were just what the Griz needed. The first one was a tremendous effort and dive to get across the goalline, the 2nd it sure looked like MSU didn’t want anything from him. Daly just watched him run past, so did a linebacker. That one sealed the deal.

I saw an early post pissing and moaning about the O-line, and yeah their first quarter was not good at all. MSU was riding a wave of emotion and had the advantage early, but as the game worse on the Grizzly O-line won the day. JJ was sacked twice in the game, yeah he was pressured a bit too, I get that. But the O-line protected Jordy incredibly well in the 2nd half and created lanes for the running game too. It may go over without observation by most but the O-line’s pass protection from pretty much the 2nd quarter forward was incredibly damn good. MSU’s pass defense isn’t that good and with their pass rush negated that gave our offense such an advantage.

The D-line was stout today 5 sacks for the front 7 I believe, incredible pressure, they punished McGhee and the running backs. I’m surprised that MSU out-ran the Griz by a few yards. The Bobcats rely on running to set up the pass and the Grizzly defense took that away. That was a huge part of this win.

+2 on the day and could have been +4 if Tully keeps a VERY tough catch for a pick and if Tripp and Coyle don’t collide late. The Griz finished +18 on the regular season. I don’t recall any Hauck teams finishing that strong, maybe they did though, I’ll have to check. No mistakes for the Griz with turnovers.

The punt return TD for the Cats… frustrating, but well blocked. Only 3 Griz tacklers had a chance at Johnson. Gotta clean that up. Also moving forward in the playoffs I’d really like to see the Griz not wait until the 2nd qtr to get rolling, haha. A solid 1st half start would be great. If you count major “errors” for the Griz in this game there were 3 on special teams, which has actually been a little odd for this unit which has done very well this season. There was a blocked punt, a punt return TD, and a blocked(ish) fieldgoal that was a low kick.

Hats off to MSU, that was a hard fought game, they’ve had a battering year and the injuries they’ve sustained caught up to them. Watching Kirk, McGhee, Bleskin, and Daly these last 4 years as a Griz fan has brought a lot of frustration at times. Those are 4 damn fine players who are graduating MSU who I’ve admired quite a bit with their play on the field and their overall show of sportsmanship through the season. Once the dust settles from this it’s hard not to pay these men (and other bobcat seniors) full respect for their time at MSU, which has been one of their more successful stretches over a 4 year period. The cats fought hard with their backs against the wall. Yes, the Griz are/were the better team, but that doesn’t sell short the effort and accomplishments of their team over these last few years.

And rivalry aside, how great was that tribute to MSU’s Connor Firstman, their video editor? Keep that guy in your prayers Griz Nation. He’s got incredible support at MSU. No one, especially someone his age, should have to deal with cancer. I hope he sees great improvement soon!

——————-

It’s time for the playoffs. We’ll see tomorrow if the Griz have done enough to land a seed. My gut tells me yes, even though NAU won. I could see something where the Griz and NAU both get a seed, somewhere in the 5-8 range. But who knows. I’d love a 4 seed for Montana… not sure if that happens though.

This feels great. The stretch of continual crap news and issues that started with the playoff game against SHSU in 2011 which finally ended this March with a not-guilty verdict has now culminated with a win over our in-state rivals. Safe travels to the Griz, enjoy (safely!) some well deserved R&R tonight, we’ll know soon enough tomorrow who we get and if we’re playing a week from today or if the Griz get a bye.

GO GRIZ!

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