James Madison wide-receiver Rockeed McCarter tiptoes along the sideline after pulling in a reception over Villanova's Ross Ventrone during second quarter action of their FCS quarterfinal NCAA college football game at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Va., Saturday, Dec. 6, 2006. (AP Photo/Daily News-Record, Pete Marovich)
Three of the four seeds in the Football Bowl Subdivision playoffs have survived two rounds and are still on the Road to Chattanooga. The team that didn’t make it was 2005-07 national champion Appalachian State.
On one level, the No. 2-seeded Mountaineers’ 33-13 loss to unseeded Richmond last Saturday was bad news for the Dec. 19 championship game at Finley Stadium, in that a repeat of last year’s overflow crowd appears unlikely. However, all of the advance tickets (about 14,000) have been sold, so the game shouldn’t suffer much, if at all, financially.
Merrill Eckstein, president of the Greater Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee, which puts on the title game, said he’s not worried about the game being hurt by Appalachian’s absence.
“I think it’s good that we’re going to have different teams in it,” Eckstein said Monday. “It certainly doesn’t bother me that Appalachian State isn’t coming; it’s not the type of situation where we’re going to be pulling our hair out, that’s for sure.”
Many of the tickets sold through the McKenzie Arena box office and online were purchased by Appalachian State supporters who were confident the Mountaineers would make a fourth straight trip to the title game. Now a lot of those tickets are for sale online at Web sites such as StubHub.com, for less than the $30 face value.
“Other than the roughly 3,800 tickets that will be allotted to the two teams, every ticket has been sold, so that’s very good,” Eckstein said. “Now there could be a lot of no-shows among those (advance) ticket holders, but the game has become a happening here, and regardless of who’s playing, I think there will be a very good crowd.”
In this weekend’s semifinals, top-seeded James Madison (12-1) hosts No. 4 seed Montana (13-1) at 8 p.m. Friday in a rematch of the 2004 national championship game, which JMU won 31-21. Richmond (11-3) plays at No. 3 seed Northern Iowa (12-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Not only have James Madison and Montana made previous trips to Chattanooga — the Grizzlies played for the title in Finley in 2000, ’01 and ’04, winning the championship in ’01 — but so has Northern Iowa, which lost to Appalachian State in 2005.
“I’d say at least two of the teams (James Madison and Northern Iowa) would take the total allotment of 3,800 tickets, based on what they did when they were here previously,” Eckstein said. “Montana would probably take around 2,000 or 2,500.”
When Richmond made the semifinals last year, before losing to Appalachian State, it requested about 1,500 tickets, Eckstein said. The Spiders had a cheering section of about 300 in Boone, N.C., last Saturday.
After winning in the quarterfinals, all four teams went to work Sunday preparing for their semifinal opponents. Richmond had the biggest win in the quarters, but coach Mike London said he’s not worried about a letdown by his players in the semifinals.
“They were lifting downstairs in the weight room (Sunday), and the atmosphere down there in the lifting session was electric,” he said. “I’m not concerned about (a letdown), because these guys are hungry.”
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...