Tennessee, Griz, trip to red turf highlight 2015 Bobcat schedule

BOZEMAN — Montana State’s 2015 football regular season begins with a Thursday night home game against a familiar foe, closes with a home installment of the Cat-Griz rivalry, and in between features a trip to Eastern Washington’s red turf and the school’s first-ever matchup with an opponent from Tennessee.

And at the end of the day, Bobcat coach Rob Ash knows the road to a fourth Big Sky title and fifth FCS Playoff appearance in the past six seasons will challenge his squad. “Any schedule in our conference is going to be a challenge because this league has quality teams,” Ash said, “and it’s getting more difficult because of the great depth. The Eastern Washington game is always important for us as a rivalry game, even when it’s not a conference game, and East Tennessee is an intriguing opponent with an excellent, veteran coaching staff.”

East Tennessee State visits Bozeman on October 24, the first Bobcat opponent ever from the state of Tennessee and also the first Buccaneer team after an 11-year dormancy for the program. ETSU, led by former North Carolina head coach Carl Torbush, joins the Southern Conference after the 2015 season, playing as an FCS Independent this year.

“Coach (Carl) Torbush is a well-respected, veteran coach,” Ash said. “He has two recruiting classes in his program and the team will have some games under their belt by the time we face them. I expect them to be athletic and talented, but it’s an unknown and that’s exciting but also causes some anxiety until we get some film on them.”

MSU opens 2015 by reviving the Thursday night Gold Rush tradition, with Fort Lewis of the Rocky Mountain Conference coming to Bobcat Stadium for the fourth time, and the second time in Ash’s nine years. MSU beat the Skyhawks 59-20 in 2010, beginning a string of six straight seasons with a Big Sky foe that extends to 2015 for FLC, and also won games in 1993 and ’98. Fort Lewis is led by well-traveled coach John L. Smith, the former head coach at Idaho, Utah State, Michigan State, Louisville and Arkansas.

After taking Sept. 12 off, the Cats trek west to face national power and reigning Big Sky champion Eastern Washington in a non-conference contest. In fact, the Eagles have won or shared the last three league titles. Homecoming is up next for the Cats, when Cal Poly comes to Bozeman on Sept. 26. The Mustangs topped the Cats 35-27 last fall, and own an eight-game winning streak against MSU.

The Cal Poly game kicks off a rugged eight-game league slate which also features home games against Sacramento State and Southern Utah. The Bobcats and Hornets have a history of thrillers, including last fall’s imagination-straining 59-56 Bobcat win in Hornet Stadium. SUU’s return to Bobcat Stadium undoubtedly stirs memories of the Thunderbirds’ 22-14 win in Bozeman in 2013, which simultaneously launched Southern Utah into the FCS Playoffs and bounced MSU out.

Montana State’s 2015 road schedule takes the team to several league locales after an unnatural period of time for league rivals. The Cats visit Northern Arizona’s renovated Walkup Skydome (Oct. 3) and Idaho State’s Holt Arena for the first time since 2010 (Nov. 14), and trek to Portland State for the first time since 2011. Designated rival North Dakota is also a destination (Oct. 31).

As always, the regular season ends and is highlighted by the finale against Montana. This year’s Brawl of the Wild on Nov. 21 marks the 115th meeting between the ancient rivals, and pits a pair of 2014 FCS Playoff squads.

Game times and designations will be released at later dates. Season Ticket Renewal forms for 2015 will be e-mailed on Friday, March 20. MSU’s spring practice session begins on Tuesday, March 17, at 3:45 pm in Bobcat Stadium, with the Triangle Classic slated for April 10-11 in Great Falls and the Sonny Holland Classic closing spring practice on April 18.

Sept. 3 — Fort Lewis
Sept. 12  — Open
Sept. 19  — at Eastern Washington
Sept. 26  — *Cal Poly (HC)
Oct. 3     — *at Northern Arizona
Oct. 10   — *Sacramento State
Oct. 17   — *at Portland State
Oct. 24   — East Tennessee State
Oct. 31   — *at North Dakota
Nov. 7    — *Southern Utah
Nov. 14  — *at Idaho State
Nov. 21  — *Montana

— MSU Sports Information