Coastal Carolina will try to weather the cold in playoff game at Montana
MISSOULA, Mont. -- Coastal Carolina head coach Joe Moglia says only one of his players had ever been to Montana, very few have actually seen snow and a lot of them don't own winter coats.
That's all going to change this weekend when the Chanticleers (11-2) take on eighth-seeded Montana (10-2) in the second round of the FCS playoffs in Missoula.
The temperature for Saturday's noon kickoff could be below zero, making it the coldest game ever played at Washington Grizzly Stadium. The National Weather Service is forecasting wind chills as low as 36 below in Missoula on Saturday morning, with the winds decreasing some in the afternoon.
The Chanticleers traveled 2,500 miles from Conway, S.C. -- where temperatures have been in the 70s -- to Missoula on Thursday. When they hit the practice field Thursday evening the temperature was 2 degrees.
"We want the guys to be able to put on shoulder pads, we want them to have on their helmets, we want them to get used to running around, catching the ball, throwing the ball in real cold weather," Moglia said. "You can't acclimate to the cold in 48 hours, but you can at least get a little feel so you'll have a better understanding on what to expect."
They also discussed the importance of layering clothes, the advantages of skin cream and possibly serving chicken broth at halftime.
Still, Moglia said the weather is an advantage for Montana. Coastal Carolina tight end Thomas Pauciello, who is from Connecticut, said it will be a factor.
"It's definitely a difference in playing in that cold of weather," Pauciello said Wednesday. "It obviously hurts a lot more when you get tackled because your body is all cold so when you hit the ground, it doesn't feel too good.
"But it's all in your mind, I think. If you go out there and say you will be all right, it's all mental."
Griz defensive lineman Alex Bienemann welcomes the cold.
"I say bring it on -- let the temp keep dropping," Bienemann said. "I hope the wind chill puts us beneath zero. I think it's fun to get a team from a different climate, get them up here, get them the classic Montana climate, classic Montana football and challenge them to beat us in our own element. It should be fun."
Bienemann's job will be to help stop Coastal Carolina's offense, which averages 43 points per game. The Chanticleers are led by running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, a Walter Payton Award candidate who has rushed for 1,572 yards and 24 touchdowns this season.
"I think we're really excited to have some team try to run the ball straight at us," Bienemann said. "That's what we're best at handling."
Taliaferro, who is from Virginia, said playing in the cold is actually his type of game because teams have to run the ball a little more.
"I'm ready," Taliaferro said. "I can't worry about the weather. We have to be prepared for anything."
Montana is peaking at the right time. The Grizzlies have won seven of their past eight games and they lead the nation in turnover margin with 31 takeaways to 13 turnovers.
"We want to be ball-hawking," Griz linebacker Brock Coyle said. "It's very important to our defensive mindset that we want to create turnovers."
Montana's only loss in October and November was a 42-37 win by third-seeded Eastern Washington. The Griz have won two overtime games this season and rallied from a 24-17 halftime deficit at South Dakota to win 31-27.
The Griz defense has only given up one touchdown in the 10 quarters it has played since halftime of the South Dakota game.
"We knew we could do better," Coyle said, "We knew we could come together as a group and play better. I feel like everyone is buying in."
On offense, Jordan Johnson has passed for 2,999 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. Ellis Henderson is the leading receiver with 37 catches for 889 yards and 14 scores. Jordan Canada has rushed for 958 yards and 16 touchdowns as the Grizzlies returned to the playoffs after missing the postseason last year.
"Coach [Mick] Delaney kept telling us that the games in November are the ones they remember and we played really well," Coyle said, "We feel like we're playing about the best football right now. Every team's goal in August is to win the national championship and we're still in position to do that.