The Cougs and Bobcats are no strangers. They've played six times over the years, including twice in the last decade. Both of those recent games -- in 2001 and 2002 -- were fairly competitive. And that was when WSU was in its 10-wins-a-season-heydey.
The Cougars, despite their recent woes, will be heavily favored Saturday (4 p.m. kickoff) but there's no getting around the fact the Bobcats have a reputation for playing hard-nosed ball, especially on defense. Moreover, they're in the midst of a nice run -- 20 victories over the three seasons leading into this one and a No. 24 national FCS (Division I-AA) ranking.
The Cougs and 'Cats also have some personal connections. Jason McEndoo, the Bobcats' offensive line coach, was a standout on WSU's 1998 Rose Bowl team. And Mike Kramer, the assistant football operations director at WSU, was the head coach of the Bobcats until a messy dismissal in 2007 that led to Kramer filing a lawsuit against school officials. The suit recently was settled out of court with MSU paying Kramer $240,000.
After a stellar coaching stint at EWU, where Paul Wulff was his offensive coordinator, Kramer coached MSU for seven seasons and led the team to three Big Sky Conference championships and its first playoff win in more than two decades.
Kramer's successor at MSU is 56-year-old Rob Ash, a minister's son from Iowa, who spent 18 seasons as head man at Drake before coming to Bozeman. His 20 wins in his first three seasons is the most ever by a Bobcat coach, and his .588 winning percentage places him with legendary Bobcat coaches of yore such as Sonny Holland and Jim Sweeney.
Historically speaking, Montana State has had a notable presence from the state of Washington on its roster. Not this year, however. Just two Bobcats -- Alex Terrien of Auburn and Julius Lloyd of Kenmore -- hail from the Evergreen State. But get this: A whopping 17 MSU players are from Texas.
Two Bobcats -- defensive tackle Dan Ogden and offensive tackle Mike Person -- are FCS pre-season All-America picks. If Person does indeed wind up the season with All-American plaudits, he will be the fifth MSU offensive lineman to do so since Jason McEndoo started coaching the hosses eight years ago.