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Rematches abound in FCS quarters
When the Montana Grizzlies meet the Weber State Wildcats Saturday afternoon in Missoula in a repeat clash of Big Sky Conference rivals, it won’t be the only rematch in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
The top-seeded James Madison Dukes (11-1) are facing Colonial Athletic Association rival Villanova (10-2) Saturday for the second time this season, as well. And UM fans have a serious interest in the outcome of that game, being played in Harrisonburg, Va.
The Montana-Weber State winner will face the JMU-Villanova survivor in the FCS semifinals the following weekend, and that game could be played in Missoula — only if the fourth-seeded Grizzlies (12-1) beat Weber State (10-3), and Villanova knocks off James Madison. If the Dukes win, the semifinal clash will be played in Virginia.
The date and time of that semifinal game are up in the air. The contest could be played on a Friday night — as it was two years ago when Massachusetts came to Missoula and beat Montana 19-17 under portable lights installed by ESPN. Or it could be played on Saturday afternoon.
Either way, if UM plays host to a semifinal game, lights will be required at Washington-Grizzly Stadium since ESPN has the game slotted for a 2 p.m. start. It gets dark shortly after 4 in Missoula these days.
“I haven’t heard anything about which (semifinal) game is Friday and which will be Saturday,” said Jon Kasper, the Big Sky assistant commissioner for media relations.
“All we know right now is that the Friday night game will be at 6 on ESPN2, and the Saturday game will start at 2 on ESPN … either way they’ll have to bring lights into Missoula.”
Kasper is holding out hope that if Weber State and Villanova both win Saturday, a semifinal game could be played at Stewart Stadium in Ogden, Utah, a facility that has lights.
“If Villanova wins, Weber may have a higher bid,” said Kasper. “Villanova only drew 4,489 for a first-round game against Colgate.”
Weber State is averaging just under 7,000 fans per game this season — about 17,000 less than UM averages. But the Wildcats compete each week with BYU and Utah for fan support in the Salt Lake City area, and those FBS schools won’t have games next weekend.
Kasper said the allocation of playoff dates by the NCAA also could depend on Appalachian State’s school schedule. Second-seeded Appalachian State (11-2) meets Richmond (10-3) Saturday in another quarterfinal clash, and New Hampshire (10-2) plays at third-seeded Northern Iowa (11-2). The winners of those games will meet the following weekend at the site of the best remaining seed.
Montana will be trying to avenge its earlier 45-28 defeat against Weber State back on Oct. 4, when the Wildcats sacked UM quarterback Cole Bergquist seven times, and also forced four turnovers. Montana led 21-10 midway through the second quarter before the Wildcats took over.
James Madison needed a miracle finish to edge Villanova in their first meeting on Oct. 25. Quarterback Rodney Landers connected with Bosco Williams for a 35-yard touchdown pass with no time left as the Dukes edged the Wildcats 23-19.
A 14-yard punt with just over a minute to play gave James Madison the ball at its own 34-yard line, and Landers accounted for all 66 yards on the winning drive.
If it weren’t for that loss, Villanova might well be the No. 1 seed.
Of course, if the Grizzlies had beaten Weber State two months ago, they probably would have the top seed for the playoffs.
Rematches abound in FCS quarters
By George Geise, The Great Falls Tribune (MT)