MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL – Allow me to bottom line the University of Montana’s football trip to Western Illinois: Unless you’re on a charter flight with players and coaches, there’s no easy way to get from Montana to Macomb.
It didn’t matter if I left at 5 a.m. or 5 p.m., I wasn’t arriving in Illinois until after 10 p.m.. Then it’s another 90-minute drive to campus.
So, enjoying a four-hour layover at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport serves a little time to research some details to expect from the Leathernecks in Saturday’s game.
They’re 0-2. Last week at Illinois of the Big 10, the Leathernecks led 7-0 after a red zone touchdown pass, but they ultimately lost 34-14. They also lost 26-23 at Montana State to open the season after watching a fourth-quarter lead evaporate.
However, Saturday is Western Illinois’ home opener, and fans have to know their guys will be fired up. Plus, they’re excellent at Hanson Field. In the last two decades the Leathernecks are 33-4 at home against non-conference teams.
Griz coach Bobby Hauck knows who they are. The Leathernecks knocked him out of the playoffs in Hauck’s first season with the Griz. That was in 2003.
The two teams have met only three times, but Western Illinois has won two. Montana hasn’t earned a winning road record in five years.
Saturday’s game can only be seen on the new ESPN+ network, which is subscription-based. But there are a variety of statewide bars and restaurants that expect to be airing it. MTN Sports will provide in-game and post-game coverage during statewide 5:30 and 10 p.m. sportscasts and also at www.montanasports.com.
It’s supposed to be a hot Saturday: The high in Macomb is forecasted at 87 degrees. By way of planes, trains or automobiles, hopefully I’ll be there.