Morningside qualified for the NAIA national football playoffs for the ninth straight time this season.
Montana Tech made the postseason for the first time in seven years.
Still, when the two teams meet Saturday in the first round, don’t anticipate the Orediggers to be all wide-eyed about playing on the national state.
Kickoff is at noon Mountain time. (The game can be heard live on KBOW 550 AM. Click here to listen online.)
“Their aspirations for their program has always been going after national championships,” Montana Tech coach Chuck Morrell said of the Mustangs. “This is their ninth straight year in the national playoffs. They’re very experienced. They’re used to hosting.”
The Orediggers’ last playoff appearance came in 2007. Tech went on the road to beat Azusa Pacific before losing at Carroll College after senior quarterback Aaron Johnson broke his arm.
“For us, it’s a bunch of young guys going into their first foray into this thing,” Morrell said. “Our guys are going on a mission. We’re not just sitting there happy to be a part of it. I think we’ll go out there and do right by the Frontier Conference and have a good showing on Saturday.”
The Mustangs rolled to a 10-0 record, punishing their opponents en route to the Great Plains Athletic Conference title. Morningside outscored its opponents 457-57 in the regular season.
Morningside hasn’t surrendered a point since a 53-23 win over Hastings (Neb.) on Oct. 20. They beat their last three opponents by a combined score of 153-0. Granted, those were three of the basement teams in the conference, but impressive results nonetheless.
The Orediggers are coming off their first loss since Sept. 1. They fell 46-28 at Southern Oregon last week. Morrell said his team learned from that loss that stopped an eight-game winning streak.
“When you’re playing up against a great team, you can’t be good for just one quarter,” the coach said. “We’ve got to be good all the time. You’ve got to be on fire all the time. That’s what we struggled with last week. We’re putting it behind us. We’re not even thinking about it, we’re just pushing forward. I know our guys travel well. I know we can play well for the road.”
Oredigger junior quarterback Nick Baker said experience won’t be an issue for the Orediggers.
“I feel if we come out and do our job, we’ll be fine,” Baker said. “The coaches put us in good situations to score points, and I think we’ve done a good job with that all year. If we just come out and play Montana Tech football, we’ll be fine.”
Morrell said he doesn’t envision having to give his team a pep talk before the game. Even though the playoffs might be something new for his Orediggers, he can see that they are ready.
“They’ve been on edge the entire season, and they’re still on that edge,” Morrell said. “I don’t think I’m going to have to get them up for the game at all.”