The Bearkats have been through the drill so many times this season, they know the routine like the back of their hand.

Just like in eight of the 12 games they've played this season, including the playoffs, Sam Houston listened to the itinerary for the upcoming road trip from head coach Willie Fritz and begin making plans.

Once again, the Kats will load up the buses with equipment and gear this morning and begin making their way toward their destination. The only difference is that this next contest holds the most weight for Sam Houston. A spot in the FCS semifinals will be on the line Friday night as the Kats travel to Bozeman, Mont., for a national quarterfinals contest against No. 3 seed Montana State.

"We're just happy to be playing again. We're excited to go up there," Bearkats senior offensive lineman Riley Smith said. "We've been on the road all year, nothing else is new. We'll handle it just as good as we've handled all of the other road games. We're anxious to play on Friday."

For the ninth time this season, the Bearkats (9-3) overall) have to go on the road, trying to come out on top. In seven of the previous road games - the exception being a neutral-site contest against Stephen F. Austin at Reliant Stadium in Houston for the Battle of the Piney Woods - Sam Houston has had to go into enemy territory.

Along with the pressure that comes with win-or-go-home games in the playoffs, the Bearkats will have to board a plane and fly a little more than three hours to Big Sky country, which distinguishes this road trip from others this season.

"It's going to be a little different, but we're used to traveling," Kats senior linebacker Darius Taylor said. "We've got an older team this year. I think that's going to play a big role. We've got a bunch of seniors, a bunch of juniors. We're old enough and mature enough to get on a plane and make it a business trip."

"Us leaving at 10:30 (in the morning) and getting up there at 3 (p.m.), it's actually going to be shorter than a couple of (earlier road trips). We're used to it," Fritz added.

Though the Bearkats will be among hostile territory in front of what's expected to be a packed crowd at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman for FCS playoff football in primetime, Fritz will lean on his experienced squad to keep all his players' mind-sets just where they need to be.

"I don't make a big deal out of this kind of stuff," Fritz said. "We're playing football. One of the big things I try to get our guys to understand is we need to lock in once we get inside those white lines and not worry about home crowd, away crowd, whatever the case may be and focus on the task at hand and our guys have done a good job of that this season."

"I think our guys know what's at stake, what we're playing for. There's a time to be serious and a time to relax when you're on the road. Our guys have been pretty darn mature this season in that regard."

Last year, Sam Houston and Montana State also met in the quarterfinals round, but the game was played in Huntsville at Bowers Stadium. The contest was close until the early stages of the third quarter when Kats senior Brandon Closner returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown to push Sam Houston ahead by two scores. That allowed the Bearkats to coast to an easy 49-13 victory to advance to the semifinals.

The Kats know that the Bobcats are looking to return the favor.

"I bet those guys will have a chip on their shoulder after what we did to them last year," Smith said. "There's only eight teams left and we're one of eight. Only good teams are left, obviously. They're a great team and so are we. We'll see who's the better of the two on Friday."