By Ryan Divish
BILLINGS - As I sat there last Saturday watching pandemonium meet bedlam on the turf of Washington-Grizzly stadium, I was engulfed in memories of four years before.
It was then that I watched wide receiver Jim Farris being carried around on the shoulders of ecstatic Griz fans, following his miraculous catch to defeat Appalachian State and send UM into the 2000 NCAA Division I-AA championship game.
I watched as my intoxicated roommate - we'll call him Bryan - was leading a group of students out of the stadium with the south goalpost on their shoulders.
It was all so overwhelming that I needed to be a part of it. I had to throw a bomb, haul in a pass, throw a block, make a tackle, something, anything. There was never a moment when I wished I had a football more in my life.
With no ball, I had to improvise. I turned to my buddy, Gilman, and told him there was no way I was leaving the field without at least making a tackle.
So I dropped into the old cornerback stance Jeff Currie and Mickey Williams taught me way back when I was playing for the Ponies. A few quick backpedals, and I took off, churning up yards and reaching full speed at my so-called ball carrier. My target, George Ferguson, stood on the goal line, hands in his pockets, staring into the stands.
About 4 feet from George, I let out a yell. He swung around and tried to avoid the collision, but it was too late. It was a perfect form tackle. I swear I could hear the bones in his back cracking and air leaving his body as we slammed into the turf.
In my head, I heard wild cheers from 17,000-plus fans. Really, it was just hysterical laughter from our group of friends.
"Why?! Why do you do these things?!" George yelped after he got his air back. "What the hell is wrong with you?!"
The reason for this story? Well, it does make fun of George, but I couldn't help replaying that day, following the Grizzlies' 34-13 win over Sam Houston State last Saturday in Missoula. I was on the field again, but I didn't tackle George. He wouldn't leave the stands. Smart kid, because if his foot would have touched the stadium turf, he was getting tackled again.
Three years ago, the Griz did the improbable and advanced to the championship. I did the improbable and followed the Griz to Chattanooga, Tenn., for the championship game.
Now I find myself in a familiar spot again, heading back to Chattanooga for another NCAA Division I-AA championship.
Since not everyone has the chance to go, and since I haven't written a column in weeks, I decided to chronicle my trip with a running diary of thoughts, events and observations from the trip, the pregame, the game, the postgame and any possible jail stops along the way.
3:30 p.m. - My first time flying Big Sky Airlines and needless to say I'm not excited. I don't like flying, so I can't imagine I'll like flying on planes the size of a motor home. In what might be a bad omen, I just watched "La Bamba" at my house. Let's see, a brown guy gets into a small plane against his wishes and the plane crashes. It's a good thing I don't play the guitar.
3:52 p.m. - We're right on schedule, taxiing down the runway ready for takeoff. Yep, my stomach is tighter than some of my friends come round-buying time at a bar. You know those guys who always seem to be in the bathroom when it comes their turn to buy a round. Thankfully, they aren't making this trip with me.
3:54 - Takeoff. Yep, I'm just happy I didn't get the cheese crisp with the three tacos from Taco John's.
3:55 - Starting to regret the tacos too.
4:25 - Approach into Lewistown. Is this really necessary? Who flies to Lewistown? What is there to fly to? Don't listen to me. I just don't want to have to land and take off again.
4:30 - Big shock. Nobody got off in Lewistown and nobody got on. Just another chance for my stomach to do flip flops and make me regret ever eating an ounce of Mexican food.
5:32 - Land in Billings. Maybe that wasn't so bad. For me, any landing you can walk away from is, well, any landing you can walk away from.
11:40 - Just finishing typing this column. Yeah, I have to get up at 5 a.m. to get to the airport. Five a.m.? I don't get up at 5 a.m., I go to bed at 5 a.m. More planes, two layovers and no tacos.