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Montana State facing unfamiliar territory with natural grass field

Toyota Stadium
Posted at 6:31 PM, Jan 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-07 20:56:46-05

FRISCO, Texas — When a home is a place like Frisco, Texas – where snow and frigid temps don’t seem to exist – it’s not uncommon to see grass fields like the one at Toyota Stadium, home of the FCS National Championship.

However, it is uncommon territory for a team like Montana State - or any program that plays their entire season on artificial turf.

“Our field - it’s multipurpose, so it’s not as tall as a lot of grass fields are, so it plays very fast," explained Tom Jones, vice president of complex management for Toyota Stadium. "It can play fast like artificial turf, but it’s a lot more forgiving on your feet and ankles.”

Jones has managed the complex since its conception in 2004, but with over 30 years in the natural grass business - he’s seen a field or two.

“It’s a little more forgiving," Jones clarified. "When your cleat plants in the ground it’s not as likely to hold, so it’s going to give before your knee or your ankle does. Athletes like it from that perspective.”

According to Tom, pliability is the biggest advantage to playing on a natural field.

Dirt and grass can break apart when force is applied, but turf doesn't possess the same flexibility, which can cause an athlete's leg to bend or break before the blade of artificial grass does.

“It’s a two-acre golf green," Jones illustrated. "The only thing that’s different is instead of a greens-grade type of grass that you would putt on, it’s more of a tee box grade of grass, so it’s more for an athletic sport.”

The last time Montana State played on a natural grass field was in 2019 - an overtime victory at Cal Poly.

Jones couldn't help but give Montana State a tip for Saturday's grass field:

”Montana State football players - make sure they wear grass cleats," Jones stated. "Oftentimes teams that come in here - they’ll only play on artificial turf - they’re playing with a different type of cleat. It’s a shorter cleat. Then, they come out here on grass and they’re slipping a lot.”

Montana State did get a taste of the grass field earlier Thursday afternoon during a two-hour practice that was closed to the public and Friday during an hour-long walk-through.

The FCS Championship kicks off this Saturday at 10 a.m. MT on ESPN2.