Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Villanova's final challenge: Beating mighty Montana

When it comes to football, Montana is perhaps the Florida of the Football Championship Subdivision.

When it comes to football, Montana is perhaps the Florida of the Football Championship Subdivision.

The Grizzlies have an extremely loyal if not cultlike fan base. And they're annually a considered a national-championship contender.

"Montana is a staying power at this level," said Villanova coach Andy Talley, whose second-seeded Wildcats (13-1) face top-seeded Montana (14-0) on Friday in the FCS championship game in Chattanooga, Tenn.

"They pack in 28,000 people in their stadium. They are serious as a heart attack. It's the program in Montana."

It's easy to understand why the university with 14,207 students in Missoula, Mont., has such a following.

With 119 victories since 2000, Montana (14-0) is the winningest Division I program - Football Bowl Subdivision and FCS - of the decade. The Grizzlies have had 24 consecutive winning seasons and made 17 straight postseason appearances.

Friday will mark Montana's second straight national championship appearance, and seventh overall. The Grizzlies won national titles in 1985 and 2001.

"We played marquee teams," Talley said. "But we haven't played the [traditional powers] Youngstown State, Georgia Southern and Montana lately. I feel like a win over Montana certainly adds to the resume."

Montana has the nation's top scoring offense, averaging 36.87 points per game. It defeated South Dakota State, 61-48, in the first round of the playoffs. Montana then beat Stephen F. Austin, 51-0.

Chase Reynolds is one of the most dangerous playmakers in a balanced attack. The junior running back has rushed for 1,438 yards on 306 carries, with 22 touchdowns. His average of 102.71 yards per game ranks eighth nationally.

Quarterback Andrew Selle has thrown for 2,692 yards and 25 touchdowns to go with six interceptions. Wideout Marc Mariani has 71 receptions for 1,301 yards and 10 scores.

'Nova's all-Americans. Villanova's Matt Szczur and Ben Ijalana were named to the Walter Camp FCS all-American team. Szczur, a junior wideout, has compiled 1,969 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns. Ijalana, a junior offensive tackle, has started all 38 games of his career.