Behind The Lines With Kayla Anderson

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GRIZtastic: Montana 2-0 vs. Pac-10

1st Half Montana vs. Oregon State:

Brian Qvale gets the rebound to give the Montana Men’s Basketball team their biggest lead of the game by 11 points, TIMEOUT, the crowd goes wild and for the first time in Dahlberg Arena I got chills, this Griz team is for real!

Basketball has always been my first love, maybe that’s because I went to a high school who lived for the game, (shout out to West Valley/Spokane, WA) or maybe it’s the atmosphere or the fact that anyone can play spoiler on any give night.

Whatever the reason, I’m a huge fan of college basketball, and it’s so great to be covering a team like the Montana Grizzlies.

Last year was my first season covering Coach Wayne Tinkle’s team, and you may remember a certain superstar by the name of Anthony Johnson.

Johnson, had the biggest performance of his career in the 2010 Big Sky Tournament when he put up 42 points vs. Weber State and rallied the Griz back from a 22 point deficit to advance Montana into the NCAA tournament.

That team was a treat for me to cover, I enjoyed the group of guys and their effort all season long, but AJ couldn’t always carry the team and that was what happened in the NCAA tourney, AJ had a rough game, and nobody was there to step into that “hero” position.

But that’s not the case this year, AJ might be gone, but the Griz roster is filled with young talent.

When I interviewed these guys for the first time this season I honestly thought to myself, this is a strange group of personalities, but that didn’t seem to be a problem a few games in, in fact I think that’s what makes this team so unique.

The Griz have eight players new to the D-I ranks, including six freshmen.

The only returning senior starter is big man Brian Qvale and Guard Will Cherry has clearly become the vocal leader of this team and he’s only a Sophomore.

But somehow this team has shown an enormous amount of maturity early on this season, and there is still with two weeks to go before conference play starts.

Instead of just one weapon, the Griz have several this year:

Will Cherry- leads the nation in steals per game w/4.2 per game, Cherry is the quickest player out on the court, he’s improved his shot this year and will only get better as the season goes on.

Brian Qvale- The 6″11 center is on fire this year, he’s been a defensive force leading the team w/83 rebounds and 36 blocks (approaching UM’s & the league’s all-time leader), but he’s been consistent putting points on the board.

Derek Selvig- The junior forward is third in scoring w/ 10.1 points per game, he’s there when Qvale can’t be.

Kareem Jamar, Jordan Wood, Art Steward- These guys have come off the bench and for the most part they’ve performed well, I believe Wood will find his confidence and will be our 3 point man, along with Jamar and Steward.

These talented players put their team on the college basketball map this season when they beat UCLA on the road a couple weeks ago.

The Bruins couldn’t handle Cherry, Qvale or the Grizzlies’ zone defense and Montana came out with their first ever victory of UCLA in the history of their program.

I don’t care if UCLA isn’t the best team in the Pac-10 this year, they’re still UCLA and the Griz still beat them on their on floor, in historic Pauley Pavilion.

The Pac-10 beat down didn’t stop there, on Wednesday night Montana played host to Oregon State in Dahlberg Arena and for the first time in a long time, the energy from the fans was present and the Grizzlies fed off of it.

Brian Qvale had a career highs of 27 points and 18 rebounds and sophomore guard Will Cherry added 22 points and five steals, to lead Montana to a 71-66 victory over Oregon State.

The Griz never backed down, they had a plan to dish it to Qvale and they executed that to perfection!

Congratulations to Coach Wayne Tinkle and his team for putting on quite the show Wednesday night.

With two weeks to go before the start of conference play, Montana is  6-4 overall, 2-0 against Pac-10 teams this season.

The Griz are the team to beat in the Big Sky Conference this year, and expect them to make another appearance in this years NCAA tournament.

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A Note To A Few NFL Teams: Get Your Swagger Back

If you’re not a New England Patriots fan right now, face it your team is either mediocre or bad.

I’m not even close to being a fan of “Bradilocks and the Pats,” but they’re the best team in the league right now.

It’s been a weird year in the NFL and besides the Atlanta Falcons, New England, and maybe Pittsburgh, most teams haven’t been consistent when it comes to winning.

But there are still three weeks left in the season, and that gives these other teams a chance to get their “swagger” back and make a run into the post season.

NEW YORK JETS- Up until two weeks ago the New York Jets were on a roll and Mark Sanchez was showing signs of a good, solid quarterback, but for the second straight year, Sanchez is falling apart down the stretch of the season.

Sanchez hasn’t hit 60 percent completions in the last month, and was 17-of-44 Sunday for a season-worst 38.6 rate.

He also has five turnovers compared to zero touchdowns in his last two games.

Sanchez, it looks like if your Jets want to make it into the playoffs, then you need to get your swagger back.

I mean come on you’re a California guy, it shouldn’t be that hard.

CHICAGO BEARS- Ok, I understand they just played in snowy conditions against the Pats, but they were on their own field and this game was a blowout, Bradilocks had all the porridge he wanted today.

New England outgained Chicago 475-185 in total offensive yards and forced four turnovers by the Bears, who maintains a one-game lead over the Packers in the NFC North.

I would suggest that the Bears better find a way to win out, you have the Vikings, Jets and Packers left on the schedule, I give them a definite win against Minnesota.

As for New York and Green Bay, Jay Cutler, you better be ready to play your best two games of the season.

GREEN BAY- Losing today against a “JV” Detroit Lions squad really set the Packers back in the NFC North.

Aaron Rodgers is their man and he holds that team together, after he was knocked out of the game with a concussion, it was like the wind was knocked out of the whole team and it was inevitable that the Packers were going to lose this matchup.

I believe they still have a chance, but it isn’t going to be easy.

The Packers play New England next weekend, but if they can get Rodgers back and whoop their defense into gear they could play the spoiler, giving them momentum to win their final games against the Giants and the Bears.

BALTIMORE RAVENS-  No credit taken away from this team, they haven’t lost too much of their swagger.

The Ravens played a physical game last Sunday night and narrowly fell to Pittsburgh 13-10.

The defense just needs to keep doing what they do best, “put the smack down on their opponents,” but their offense needs to pick things up.

Play-action has been Joe Flacco’s best friend this season.

When Flacco has used the play-fake in 2010, he’s thrown 10 touchdowns and just one interception.

On plays without a play-fake, Flacco has thrown nine touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Get this started with Houston on Monday night, after that they have a tough challenge in New Orleans, but then end with an up & down team in Cleveland and a cupcake in Cincinnati.

I’m a Seahawks fan, but I’m not even going to touch the West.

Besides the San Diego Chargers, that’s a weak group of teams, good luck with any of them making it past the first round of playoffs, sorry but the swagger on most of those teams was never there.

The Anatomy Of The Apple Cup

 Just how much does one love a good college football rivalry game?

Almost any loyal fan would say, “It’s the best game on the schedule every year!”

It doesn’t matter who it is or what their record might be, when you put two teams up against each other, anything can happen!

I just so happen to be a graduate of Washington State, and a very proud Coug, so this blog is for all of you…It’s The Anatomy of the Apple Cup.

The Apple Cup is the battle between Washington State and Washington, a rivalry that dates back all the way to 1900 when the two teams ended in a tie .

Since then there has been 102 games between the two schools.

 The Huskies hold a 65-31-6 advantage over WSU,  but since 2004, the Cougs have had the upperhand, winning four out of the six games played.

This rivalry may not be the biggest or oldest in the nation, but is certainly the most important in the state of Washington.

There has been some incredible meetings thoughout the years.

Nobody can mention the Apple Cup without bringing up the 1992 “Snow Bowl.’

That’s when Quarterback Drew Bledsoe led the Cougs to a  42-23 victory over the #5 Huskies, in frigid, snowy conditions… that was a classic!

And more recently in 2008, when WSU was REALLY struggling, they still managed to pull off the 16-13 win in double overtime (that just happened to be the first time I was in Martin Stadium, since I graduated in 2005).

Unfortuntly, in 2009 the Huskies reclaimed the trophy on their home turf when they blanked the Cougs 30-0, but don’t get your hopes up UW fans, this year we’re back on the Palouse.

The Cougs and “pesky” Huskies meet this Saturday at Martin Stadium, where there will be snow on the ground and chilly temperatures.

Yes, the Huskies come in with a better record, blah blah blah, but the Cougars have just as good of a chance to walk away with a victory.

If  they take advantage of their home crowd and if quarterback Jeff Tuel can put together a solid performance on offense, WSU will be victorious.

My prediction 27-24 Cougs.

***Feel free to leave your predictions under the comments section of my blog!

Seahawks Should Hustle Hassleback Out

Seahawks fans (myself included) are some of the loudest in the NFL, however they haven’t had much to cheer about in the past few years.

The Seattle Seahawks really haven’t done anything impressive since their 2005-06 season when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL.

Sadly, that’s also the last time quarterback Matt Hassleback had an all-around solid year under center.

By no means does anyone want to take away from all that he’s done for Seattle.

Since becoming the starter in 2003, Hasselbeck has led the Seahawks to five playoff appearances and a Super Bowl appearance as well as being selected three times for the Pro Bowl.

But just like Brett Favre knows (or should realize) is all things must come to an end at some point.

In the past couple years, Hassleback has exposed his weaknesses, and not hard to see that this rough game, is infact catching up to him.

Nobody is ever as good as they should be when they’re hurt, and that has been Hassleback’s downfall as he’s been plagued with injuries.

He’s dealt with everything from an MCL sprain, broken fingers, to back problems and most recently a broken wrist.

NOTE:  Take it from someone who’s dealt with a broken wrist for four months without getting it fixed, it hurts and no matter how tough you are, you can’t perform to your best capability!

When it comes to the team and coaching staff, we all know the Seahawks have pretty much cleaned house this past year, but things will still be a mess if they don’t get a clue and hustle Hassleback out soon.

I will continue to support the Seahawks regardless, but I won’t be expecting any championships anytime soon, that’s unless we have a new quarterback on the field next year.

Former Griz Players Making A Name For Montana

First of all, I’ve been lucky enough to cover sports in the Treasure State.

Many people out there may not even know where Montana is located on a map, but who cares, they’re missing out!

I’ve covered sports in several different states, and this is a rare place.

Everyone here has an enormous amount of love and pride for their teams.

There is one thing that has really impressed me and that’s the amount of success that former Griz players are having at the next level.

The National Football League is full of amazing athletes, but most of these guys played for teams in the FBS.

However, in the last couple of years, more and more FCS players are showing they too can play with the best.

Montana is a prime example of a college program that has groomed players to be able to compete in the NFL, whether it be a kicker like Dan Carpenter or a Return Specialist like Marc Mariani, these players are making a name for Montana.

So far this year, the Miami Dolphins’ Carpenter has been named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week two times.

The Helena native has put up over 80 points this season.

Carpenter is perfect with extra points and well on his way to making this year’s Pro Bowl.

Atlanta’s Kroy Biermann is also having a breakout year.

The Hardin native is the Falcons starting defensive end, and he’s already recorded 24 tackles, 19 for solo adding on a touchdown.

Colt Anderson finally got a chance to show his skills out on the gridiron.

The Butte Native left Minnesota’s practice squad after two years, and in his first game with Philadelphia, Anderson had four special team tackles.

And what about Tennessee’s Marc Mariani?

The former Montana walk-on has impressed everyone who knows anything about football.

The Havre Native is the most dedicated, hard-working rookie in the NFL and it’s paid off.

Mariani already has two touchdowns under his belt, and he’s currently the second leading punt returner with 290 yards, right behind Chicago’s Devin Hester who has 361 yards.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw two or three of these guys on this year’s Pro Bowl Roster, keep up the good work, you’re all making Montana proud!

The Grizzlies’ Season Ends Too Quickly

I’m back on blog duty in Treasure State, and unlike last year, last weekend was the final Montana football game of the 2010 season.

Oh boy did it end way too soon!

For the first time since 1992, the Griz did not make it into the FCS Playoffs, that after falling to their rivals, Montana State and finishing the season with an overall record of 7-4, 5-3 in Big Sky Conference play.

So did the Grizzlies’ weak non-conference schedule play a factor in them not making the playoffs or do fans just need to accept the fact that this team is now in a rebuilding stage?

I say both.

It didn’t help that the Griz kicked off the season with Division II Western State.

But when Montana Head Coach Robin Pflugrad was hired this past year, he was upfront and honest with the fans and media saying that this team wouldn’t be like the 2009 Griz, adding on that they lost a handful of standout seniors including Marc Mariani, Shann Schillinger, Ty and Jace Palmer, and the list goes on and on.

Many of us realized that was the case right away, the Griz were missing that go-to guy, that solid playermaker.

We all expected Chase Reynolds to step into that position, but because of injuries and a new type of offense, he didn’t emerge as that guy until it was too late.

Montana’s defense was never the problem this year, and except from the Weber State game, this group was solid in almost every performance.

It was the injuries and Montana’s inconsistent offense that put them in the average category for the first time in several years.

Quarterback Andrew Selle’s season came to an end early on after suffering a shoulder injury, the best he could do was coach from the sideline, while Oregon transfer Justin Roper took over on the field.

But things were never consistent with Roper under center, turnovers and penalties became Montana’s their own worst enemy, and despite the team saying over and over that these things needed to be fixed, they never were and that is why the Griz will be home for the holiday for the first time in 18 years.

One other thought to ponder for the future of Montana football, “Will this team continue to consist of hard-nosed Montana boys, those walk-ons like Mariani and relentless defensive standouts like Kroy Biermann or will the Oregon, Washington, Arizona players start to dominate this roster?”

Just a thought… Montana football is special because of these hometown boys, hopefully it will stay that way.