College Sports

ASU prepares for challenge at Montana

There are any number of things coach Jerry Moore and his Appalachian State team must prepare for before heading west for their Saturday afternoon date with top-seeded Montana in the semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

There's the Grizzlies' offense, which has scored 91 consecutive points over the past two playoff games - 40 straight to close a comeback win over South Dakota State, then a 51-0 whipping of Stephen F. Austin this past Saturday.

There's the trip of approximately 2,000 miles to the western edge of Montana, where game day weather is expected to improve from recent days when temperatures have hovered around zero with a brisk breeze. The long-range forecast calls for a nice day with temperatures in the upper 20s.

Then there's the noise factor. Anticipating more than 20,000 fans in Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Saturday, Moore is using piped-in noise during practice this week to help his team prepare for what's expected to be a challenging environment in Missoula.

"We've been out there before [in 2000], and we experienced some of that at Richmond [this past Saturday]," Moore said. "We're just trying to get the players indoctrinated to the environment. It's not a huge issue.

"We're a team that doesn't huddle so two or three days [of noisy practices] should help us. It helps the process of communicating. It doesn't have anything to do with the game itself, but we do a lot of talking at the line, and that makes it difficult."

The noise is one thing Moore remembers from his only other trip to Montana, which resulted in a 19-16 overtime playoff loss in 2000. He also remembered playing on a natural grass field that caused some issues. Montana has since put synthetic turf on its field.

"We spent most of our pregame time looking to see what shoes they were wearing because we figured they'd have the right ones on," Moore said. "We took a bunch of shoes out there. We knew we had the right ones. We just didn't know if we had them on."

Unlike Montana, which cruised through the quarterfinals, Appalachian State had to make two fourth-quarter comebacks to stay alive, sealing its victory at Richmond on a touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining.

Trailing by 10 points with less than 10 minutes to play, Appalachian State scored three late touchdowns to advance.

"Coach Moore told us that 99 out of 100 teams probably would have given up in the game because of the position we were in," Mountaineers linebacker Jacque Roman said. "It shows the character of our team."

Facing a Montana team that can pile up points in a hurry, Moore said he has been encouraged by his team's steady defensive improvement over the last six weeks. It remains a work in progress, however. Containing Montana's big-play potential will be critical for Appalachian State.

"I wouldn't want to go all the way out there and lose," Roman said. "I don't want to come back on that plane ride with a loss."