Cougars Wary Of Grizzlies
Mike Price isn’t guaranteeing a victory in Saturday’s 2 p.m. home football opener against Montana.
But the seventh-year Washington State coach has promised that if his Cougars don’t win, it won’t be because they’ve overlooked the Division I-AA Grizzlies.
“Have you seen Montana play?” Price said, when asked about such a possibility. “They’re an extremely potent football team, both offensively and defensively, and they’ll hit with the best people in the country.
“They’re one of the best Division I-AA football teams in the country, no question about it.”
Few could effectively argue the point. The Grizzlies, who opened their season at home last Saturday by beating up on Division II Eastern New Mexico 41-14, have ranked among the country’s elite I-AA schools for the past several season.
They have made it to the Division I-AA playoffs four times in the last seven seasons and finished 11-3 last fall after losing to eventual national champion Youngstown State, 28-9, in the semifinals.
And they return 45 letterwinners and 11 starters from last year - including senior quarterback Dave Dickenson, named the most valuable offensive player in the Big Sky Conference the past two seasons.
But the Grizzlies are still playing with 20 fewer scholarship players than most Division I-A schools, and they trail WSU 31-2 in a series that dates back to 1903.
WSU’s interior offensive line will outweigh Montana’s four-man defensive by more than 30 pounds per man, and the Cougars should also have a decided advantage in speed and strength.
In addition, WSU will be playing in front of a friendly Martin Stadium crowd that could reach 30,000 and on an artificial turf that will maximize its collective quickness.
Everything points to a Cougars blowout - just like it did back in 1992, the last time the teams met.
That game, too, was played at Martin Stadium. WSU had a big guy named Drew Bledsoe playing quarterback. It was the Cougars’ season opener and they were huge favorite.
Montana, taking advantage of four Bledsoe interceptions and three of WSU’s four fumbles, stayed close for three quarters before falling 25-13.
Dickenson, poised to become Montana’s all-time passing leader, watched that game from the bench and recalls intently watching Bledsoe, who completed 37 of 66 passes for 413 yards - all school records.
“I watched him close to see if I could learn some things,” Dickenson said. “He did put up some big numbers, but he did throw some interceptions. And, you know, that game’s a blowout without those turnovers - and in a big way. Notes
There will be no live television coverage of Saturday’s game, but Prime Sports Northwest will provide a tape-delayed replay Sunday morning at 9:30. … Cornerback Greg Burns’ interception against Pittsburgh last Saturday was the ninth of his career and moved him into the No. 7 spot on the Cougars’ career list and within five of all-time leader Richard Reed’s 11. … Leon Bender, who missed the Pitt game because of academic deficiencies, has still not regained his eligibility and Price hinted earlier this week that he might redshirt the junior defensive tackle.