BUTTE — The fifth-ranked Montana Tech football team spent part of the week practicing on the grass field that is adjacent to Alumni Coliseum.
Whenever the Orediggers are scheduled to play an opponent with a grass field, they spend part of the prep-week acclimating themselves to that playing surface.
The Orediggers will be in Dillon on Saturday seeking their fifth straight win of the season. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m., Saturday at Vigilante Stadium.
Vigilante has a grass field, and the game will be hosted by a Bulldog team itching to give Tech its first loss of the season. The game will be the next chapter in a rivalry where anything can happen.
Tech is 4-3 against Western over the past five seasons and four of those games have been decided by seven points or less.
“Playing down at their place is tough,” Oredigger head coach Chuck Morrell said. “Their effort is always good and you have to be prepared for that. You have to be prepared for their physicality.”
If anything, the Orediggers have had more than enough time to prepare. Tech is coming off a bye week.
The players and coaches feel they've benefited from the extra week of practice. Morrell and his staff got a chance to take a good, hard look at the team. Quarterback Quinn McQueary said the 'Diggers were able to touch up a few things and add a couple minor tweaks to the offense.
There is a danger in trying to focus too much on the upcoming game coming off a bye and it was another point Morrell hit on.
“I think there is such a thing as trying to prepare too much for a specific scheme,” Morrell said. “We certainly put plenty of time into it, but at the same time I think our coaching staff did a good job of focusing on base fundamentals and attention to detail and self improvement.”
It also was a chance to unwind and get away from football for a little bit. From catching up on schoolwork to getting treatment for minor injuries, the bye helps in a variety of ways.
Montana Tech, at 4-0, looks like one of the most dangerous teams in the Frontier Conference, not to mention the nation.
“The team that’s going to be in the national championship is going to be the healthiest,” wide receiver Dion Williams said. “It’s always nice to have a break, get your body back, get your feet under you and just get your mind mentally prepared.”
Western is coming off a bye too and will have had just as much time to prepare for Tech.
The Bulldogs have settled on a quarterback — Bennett Gibson — who is having a pretty solid year, tossing eight touchdowns while completing 58.5-percent of his passes. He has thrown seven interceptions but the Western defense has stepped up, picking off 11 passes and recovering two fumbles.
Protecting the ball has been a point of emphasis for Tech this week and in order to pull the upset, the Bulldogs will have to make some plays on defense.
With that in mind Western head coach Ryan Nourse wants his squad to focus on the basics.
“I don't know if there is ever a clear cut answer to slow down an explosive, prolific offense,” Nourse said. “I think you do what you do best as a defense, play with confidence, discipline and be very physical and aggressive.”
A win against the Bulldogs would keep Tech neck-and-neck with No. 8 Southern Oregon at the top of the conference standings. The Orediggers will be on the road next week against Carroll College before having a two-game home stand.
There’s not a lot room for mistakes and both teams know it.
“We just have to keep trusting each other to keep this thing rolling,” Williams said. “As long as we trust each other and have each others back, that’s the key component.”