Don’t Underestimate a Trap Game

Montana State beat Chadron State by a score of 33-6 and won its first home game of the season — a familiar scenario for us here in Bozeman. Year after year, Montana State blows out some Division II school to win its home opener. This has been the norm for three years in a row.  The way of the world in college football is for a team to invite another team they know they can beat for their home opening game.  The problem is that sometimes teams create a “trap game” for themselves and end up losing to these lesser teams.

“Trap game” is a term usually used to describe a game where one team should win, but is at risk due to lack of preparation.  Three years ago, the Bobcats almost lost to a Division II school, Dixie State, in their home opener.  Yes, the Bobcats won the game, but they did not perform as well as expected and it cost them later in the season.  Instead of opening the 2009 season with a big win, the close struggle set the tone of a seven and four record in a season where the Bobcats missed the playoffs.  In this case, a lack of preparation for an easy game damaged an entire season.

The Bobcats opened the 2006 season with an upset on the road against former BCS National Champion, the University of Colorado.  Then, the Bobcats held their home opener against a Division II school, Chadron State.  The Bobcats, fresh from their win, were very confident and expecting an easy victory.

Chadron State had other plans.  The team, lead by future NFL running back Danny Woodhead, beat Montana State by a score of 35-24.  The Bobcats lost the next two games after that, too.   It’s amazing what losing a game will do to  a team who expected to win.

Luckily, the Bobcats have been more prepared for games in recent years.  Bobcat fans have come to expect a big blowout for the home opener here in Bozeman, we just need to remember this isn’t always the case.  If the team gets overconfident and does not prepare for a game because they think they will win, they could be defeated, and even a close game early in the season can have lasting effects.

The Bobcats beat Chadron State this time, but last time they weren’t so lucky.  Hopefully they continue to prepare.  If they want to win a championship this season, they will have to do it one game at a time.