Hello fellow fans of the message board eGriz. Finally got around to doing another column and boy, that took a while. I wish I could come up with a good excuse, but in all honesty I think it all boils down to laziness, my business, and Rocket League on Xbox One. (I mean seriously, you guys played Rocket League yet? This game is the best. My handle is Aschmidtacular on PS4 and Xbox One, just like my Twitter, if you want to see how bad I am at it.) I’m finally here to atone for my sins and maybe stop some of the clamoring for if I was ever going to write again. So without further ado…
I watched the Montana Grizzly vs. Cal Poly game a few weeks back and afterwards I made a quick joke on Twitter about the game driving me to drinking (It was a joke because I always drink large quantities of Old Fashioned on Saturdays, duh), and then I fired off this tweet. It seemed to get a lot of response and it made me think of a few quick stories and situations. Obviously you want to win all of your games, but sometimes a loss is a lesson that can propel you into something bigger. Call it the clichéd “learning lesson.” It’s an absolutely weird thing to say. Nobody wants to lose and losing, logically, shouldn’t lead to something good. But I think it was Jesus that said from the ashes of tragedy comes a great Griz win… or something like that.
First off, for comparison sake, let me bring back 2007 when we didn’t lose a game all season. We had close games as you can see here, but we were never really tested except for the game against Eastern Washington. Come the game against Wofford, we really didn’t know how to react when things didn’t go our way. Obviously we lost and the most talented team in Montana history went one and done in the playoffs.
Contrast that with 2008. We were far less talented than our 2007 team, but we made it to the national title game. Part of the reason for that was the ass kicking Weber State put on us in their house on October 4. From what I remember about that game it was a monsoon and nothing really went right. It was freezing and a bunch of the players on the bench put on those old winter jackets on the sideline to stay warm and dry to a degree. Bobby was so pissed at one point that he made all of them take off the jackets and stand in the rain for the entire 4th quarter. I still laugh about that. Anyway, we were overconfident and we saw what would happen to us if we did not do everything right. Players had to do their job or that is what the result would be.
(BTW, this is the game I wrote a lengthy Twitter post about. I will make this brief but you can always refer to my Twitter. Story goes like this: we used to fly to Weber for games. Come 2008 UM decided that they wanted to bus to Weber to save money, apparently they still do. However, at the time this made Bobby really upset because he felt the higher ups were being cheap and that they contributed to our loss. So, the next week we play at Eastern Washington. All week the coaches are asking the guys on the team from Washington where we should go in Spokane for dinner that Friday night, and the more expensive the better. Bobby decided that we were going to one of the most expensive restaurants in town just to stick the bill to UM for being cheap the week before. I want to say we went to the Davenport Hotel but I could be wrong on that, I don’t really remember. Anyway, there are maybe 120 of us with players, staff, etc. and they had everything; steaks the size of your head, chicken, Cobb salad, desert, you name it. The funniest part about it was coaches were going around to tables and encouraging us to eat as much as possible and take food with us just to run up the bill. Hand to God, true story. Ask any player who was on the team about it.)
Was that a bad loss? No, especially in hindsight. We rattled off 10 straight wins after that including ones against teams that were better than us and even got a rematch against Weber in our house, which we won. That loss was a wake up call that propelled us to wins and fortified the mindset that we needed to do every little thing possible to win.
What IS a bad loss? Well Oregon in 2005 and Iowa in 2006 were pretty bad because you don’t learn a damn thing in those games. Blowouts and losses to teams that are clearly inferior (WOFFORD) qualify. Also, losses to option teams are tricky because the defense doesn’t learn anything. That game tape is more or less thrown away at the end of the game and you spend time on it if you see another option team later that season. However, what you can learn in those types of games are effort, assignments, and what exactly it takes to win or lose.
That brings me to the recent game against Cal Poly. Are the Griz probably the better team? Sure, but they didn’t do everything right. Penalties, blown assignments, missed opportunities, etc. Those are things you can work and build on. I understand some of you are saying the Griz have had “good” losses for three years now, but this takes time. These kids on the roster have never won the Big Sky Conference title. Not once. That takes time to learn. The privilege of learning from guys that won before is gone and it must be rebuilt brick by brick, and that is what they are working on through tough wins and hard losses.
Will it translate? As of right now it looks like it has but it is a long season. A 43-20 win against Southern Utah was a great start. The Mississippi Valley State game was good for confidence, but probably not much else. The real test will be the next two road games, NAU at elevation and Eastern Washington on that terrible, terrible turf.
(Another quick story, NAU is at 7,000 feet. There is a sign outside the visitor locker room that says something like “WARNING: Physical exercise at 7,000 feet can lead to exhaustion, dizziness, headaches, etc…” Bobby claims that he was the one to stencil that on the wall for the first time when he was an assistant there from 1993-1994. No idea if that is true, but he said that. He also said that playing at elevation was not that big of a deal. That was a lie. Five minutes into warm ups you head starts to feel like this.)
Hopefully the loss to Cal Poly was a good one. We will see what happens but just remember, we might look back on it and say that is the exact point where the Griz took off. Kinda like a reverse Eddie Murphy where you know exactly where a career died.
Until next time, hopefully the next hiatus is not as long. Depends how good I get at Rocket League.