BOZEMAN — The Bobcats and Grizzlies are both playoff-bound.
After a 55-21 win over Montana on Saturday, Montana State earned the No. 4 and a first-round bye for the Football Championship Subdivision postseason. Montana, on the other hand, crept into the field as a big pick.
Co-Big Sky champion Montana State (10-1) will host the winner of a first-round game between North Dakota (7-4) and Weber State (9-2) in the second round on Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. The Grizzlies (7-4) receive SE Missouri State (9-2) in the first round this Saturday at 8 p.m., in the second round.
Montana State defeated Big Sky rival Weber State 43-38 at home on Oct. 22. MSU last played in the 2019 season against North Dakota, who were formerly a Big Sky team but are now a member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
ANALYSIS: Ben Creighton, Ty Gregorak and Marty Mornhinweg crack Montana State’s 55-21 win over Montana in the 121st Brawl of the Wild
Montana and SE Missouri State have never played.
With seven wins in Division I but also four losses, the Grizzlies were poised to make it into the postseason. Ultimately, the selection committee gave Montana one of the 24 spots in the bracket.
After Saturday’s loss at MSU, Griz coach Bobby Hauck said he felt his team deserved a berth and went by what he said a week earlier about his team’s playoff summary.
“We have a good team. We’re better than most teams in the country,” Hauck said, although he also acknowledges his side need to get back on their feet.
“We have to play better. In a playoff game next week we should play better or it’s over,” he added. “Probably the most annoying thing for me about this season is the inability to play consistently. Sometimes we played at a really high level and sometimes we didn’t. The ability to do that week in and week out was a bit disconcerting.”
The other top picks for the playoffs are No. 1 South Dakota State (10-1), No. 2 Sacramento State (11-0), No. 3 North Dakota State (9-2), No. 5 William & Mary (10th -1), #6 Samford (10-1), #7 Word Incarnate (10-1), and #8 Holy Cross (11-0).
Montana State coach Brent Vigen, whose team reached the FCS title game last season, said the Bobcats are looking forward to being idle this week.
“The goodbye really helped us last year and I know it gave our boys a chance to go home for Thanksgiving (which) is very helpful as it gives them a chance to physically reconnect for the next four days to withdraw particularly – or actually the next five days,” he said.
“We’ll practice a couple of times but I think that’s all beneficial at this time of year. We don’t have a lot of injuries but we have guys that have played 11 games in 12 weeks and that adds up so it’s going to be big to recover, to recover, to rest.”
Vigen added: “I think we played really well yesterday and so the momentum that was generated on that field yesterday is a very different place than last year. We tried to regenerate at this time last year and we managed to do that, so we’re playing well and we’ll be here in a few weeks and this time as healthy as we’ll probably be all season, year-round you have to keep improving, and I think we have the ability to do that.
“Whoever you play, you play, and the face we get to play here in Bozeman is big. The home field advantage we have here is one of the best in the country in my opinion. We will make the best of it.”
The other first round matchups were St. Francis (9-2) in Delaware (7-4), Fordham (9-2) in New Hampshire (8-3), Gardner-Webb (6-5) in Eastern Kentucky ( 7-4), Idaho (7-4) at Southeastern Louisiana (8-3), Elon (8-3) at Fordham (9-2), and Davidson (8-3) at Richmond (8-3).