Montana Western head coach Ryan Nourse understands that there’s nothing guaranteed in football, especially in 2020.
As Nourse prepares for his seventh season in charge, it’s already gone through immense changes. Due to the spread of COVID-19, the Frontier Conference has elected to go with an eight-game schedule. Understandably, the Western HC is just happy to have one to prepare for.
“My feelings on the schedule and the way it is that I’m just happy we have one,” Nourse told 406mtsports.com in a recent interview. “We have a definitive starting date form the NAIA and a definitive schedule now… With uncertainty being the only uncertainty we have right now, seeing those are good. They feel like benchmarks.”
While it’s reassuring to see a schedule, one of the major changes is that the Bulldogs will not host Montana Tech at Dillon’s Vigilante Field in 2020, as originally scheduled.
Instead, Western will get one shot at a Digger-Dawgs matchup, and will have to head to Butte for a single game for the second straight season.
“I was hoping we would get to play Tech twice this year,” Nourse said. “It’s always a great place to play, but losing that game at home it’s not something we wanted, but it is what it is. Things are fair, but I didn’t get my way.”
In the context of Western’s home and away records since 2016, the loss of the home game against Tech instead of some other contest could significantly matter. The Bulldogs are 16-4 in the past four season at home, but just 7-14 on the road.
However, Nourse is known for his mentality and approach with his teams, which focuses on being able to shrug off outside adversity and aspects of the sport that are out of the Bulldogs’ influence. It may not be what he wanted, but that mindset hasn’t shifted.
“In these types of situations,” Nourse said. “I think sometimes there’s so many things you can’t control, you’re better off controlling what you can and be really well prepared for whatever comes your way. We’re going to be prepared for when our players get here.”
That preparation entails making sure that the team is staying in shape ahead of the August 15 return date for official practice. With no strength and conditioning coach, that responsibility is shared by Nourse and his staff.
Having to follow NAIA protocols while still making the most of the time the Bulldogs have before the fall is a tough challenge. Players currently have to workout in groups of 10 or less, and have had to do the majority of it on their own accord.
“We’re working with our athletic training staff on what [the next steps are,]” Nourse said. “Making sure we’re on point because when the players get here [officially], they are the most important element of everything.
“Everyone here is blue collar, every single one of our kids is working a blue collar job. This year is different than years past though, there isn’t as many jobs. We can only allow 10 kids at a time in our weight room, we’re running 5-10 weight sessions a day. It’s quite a challenge to put it all together.”
Nourse went on to explain that it’s tough navigating the current situation when the NAIA is leaving much of the protocols and actions up to specific schools’ administrative bodies rather than having a stance that is more uniform across the board.
But no matter what happens, whether that’s more or less changes, Nourse says he and the Bulldogs are focused on adapting and being ready.
“This is not a case-by-case basis when entire states could be shut down. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m going to prepare for it all and just going to be like water.”