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No. 14 Grizzlies look to keep momentum hosting Drake

Saturday’s game marks just the third time Montana has squared off against a team from the Pioneer Football League (PFL). The Griz defeated San Diego in a Missoula blizzard in the 2014 FCS Playoffs, and opened the 2017 season with a victory over Valparaiso. (GoGriz.com)

The Montana Grizzlies are buoyed by momentum as they head into week two of their challenging 2018 schedule, having already completed one of the biggest tests of the year – earning a passing grade against a solid Northern Iowa Panthers team.

After 13 years as a head coach, Bobby Hauck is happy to be 1-0 with a big win on week one, but knows his young team is far from earning an A+.

“It was good to get on the winning track right out of the gate over a really fine, well-coached football team,” said Hauck at his weekly press conference on Monday.

“We have a lot of improvement to make. I do believe, to a degree, the adage that you have a chance to make big improvements week one to week two is accurate. So, there is a lot of things we need to do better, and this will be a big week of practice for us,”

THE GAME: Hauck and the No. 14 Grizzlies (1-0) will get another chance to prove themselves in nonconference play this week as Montana hosts Drake University (0-0) of the Pioneer Football League on Saturday, Sept. 8 in a 1:07 p.m. kickoff for the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

The Drake Bulldogs come to Missoula having played roughly seven minutes of football this season, with their home-opener against D-II William Jewell canceled after the first series due to severe weather in the Des Moines, Iowa area.

Due to NCAA rules, the game is officially recorded as a no contest and stats won’t count, but Drake looked as though they were ready to rack up the stats, marching down-field and capping its first possession with a six-yard touchdown run before the whistle blew.

Drake brings a veteran squad to Montana with 18 starting seniors on the depth chart, 12 returning All-PFL performers and 23 players back with at least one start. As such, the Bulldogs were picked to finish third in the PFL.

“They’re a good team,” said Hauck, whose coaching staff will be preparing without current video of the Bulldogs because of the cancellation. “We’ll have our hands full.”

Saturday’s game marks just the third time Montana has squared off against a team from the Pioneer Football League (PFL). The Griz defeated San Diego in a Missoula blizzard in the 2014 FCS Playoffs, and opened the 2017 season with a victory over Valparaiso.

WATCH: Fans around the globe can once again tune in to see the Griz take on the Bulldogs over the air, on cable and satellite, and via a web stream.

ABC Montana will have the game over the air across the state, except in Billings where it will be shown on SWX (channel 8.2 or Spectrum channel 503). The game will also be carried on the Altitude Sports Network (In Missoula: spectrum channel 59 or 559 HD, Dish channel 413, or DirecTV channel 681).

If you live in the ABC Montana/SWX footprint (in-state) the game can be streamed via the WATCH SWX App for free from your smartphone or tablet, available to download free from the App Store or Google Play Store. If you live out of state, you can watch the live stream at GoGriz.com/watch.

Ron Davis will provide the play-by-play, alongside former Grizzly head coach Mick Delany on color commentary. Shaun Rainey will report from the sideline.

LISTEN: Riley Corcoran is in his third season as the “Voice of the Griz” on the Grizzly Sports Radio Network alongside color commentator Greg Sundberg.

Fans from Polson to Plentywood can tune in to hear the live call on one of 15 radio stations statewide. You can also hear a digital stream of the game live worldwide via GoGriz.com/listen or the TuneIn app on our computer or smartphone.

Fans can also follow the numbers with a live stats feed at GrizStats.com, or access the stats via links at GoGriz.com.

COACH’S SHOWS: Each Wednesday the Bobby Hauck Radio Show airs statewide on Grizzly Sports Radio Network LIVE from The Press Box Bar and Grill in Missoula – The Official Fan Headquarters of Grizzly Athletics – at 6:30 p.m.

The Grizzly Sports Report with Bobby Hauck airs on SWX and ABC/ Montana each Wednesday night at 9:30. Get to know a different student-athlete each week, and break down the previous week’s game with Hauck and host Shaun Rainey.

HAPPENINGS:

FAMILY 4-PACK FLASH SALE: Bring the family to this week’s Griz game for just $80 with the Family 4-Pack Flash Sale. Four packs of tickets together in the south end zone are available from Wednesday 9-5 to Friday 9-7 ONLY at the Adams Center Box Office or by calling 1-888-MONTANA.

MAROON & SILVER: It’s the “Pride and Tradition” game at UM, with fans encouraged to don their best maroon and silver in support of the Grizzlies’ classic game day look, and is presented by Providence Health and Services of Western Montana.

GRIZZLY ATHLETICS HALL OF FAME: One of the greatest UM receivers of all-time, Matt Wells will be officially inducted into the Grizzly Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday, Sept. 7, and legendary UM Equipment Manager Steve Hackney will also be the first-ever recipient of the Grizzly Lifetime Honors Award. The pair will be recognized in an on-field salute prior to Saturday’s game. Make sure to be in your seats early to witness Montana history!

SALUTE TO MOM AND DAD: It’s Griz Football Parents Weekend at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, with the families of this year’s 12 seniors set to be introduced on the field before kickoff.

GRIZ TRACKS

MOVIN’ ON UP: The Griz made the biggest leap of any team in this week’s STATS FCS Top-25, jumping ten spots from No. 24 to No. 14. In the FCS Coaches’ Poll, the Griz moved up nine spots from 25 to 16. UM also made its debut on Craig Haley’s Athlon Sports FCS Power Poll coming in at No. 12.

ANOTHER ONE RIDES THE BUSS: Josh Buss added to his litany of preseason All-America accolades this week, earning a place on the FreeAgentFootball.com FCS Preseason Senior All-America first team.

This makes four All-America nominations and three major preseason awards for Buss, who started on Saturday and contributed handsomely with four tackles and a forced fumble in limited minutes.

DANTE’S PEAK: Junior linebacker Dante Olson was at (or close to) the peak of his game last week against Northern Iowa, leading all players with 13 tackles, an interception, a sack, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hurry.

On Monday, he was named the ROOT Sports Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week and the College Sports Madness Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week after just one start as a Grizzly.

“It’s good for our defense to have someone named Player of the Week. Obviously, defense is a team endeavor, run and pass. This guy to my left (Jesse Sims) was using up blockers, and Dante was making tackles, so it’s good for our defense,” said Hauck.

FRESH STARTS: A total of 13 Grizzlies picked up their first start in maroon and silver against Northern Iowa on Sept. 1, breaking in a youthful team that, for (likely) the first time in program history, had more freshman (5) than seniors (4) starting.

Getting their first starts on offense were: quarterback Dalton Sneed, receiver Samori Toure, tight end Colin Bingham, tailback Adam Eastwood, tackle Conlan Beaver, center Cody Meyer, guard Dylan Eickmeyer, and tackle Colton Keintz. Dante Olson, RJ Nelson, Reggie Tilleman, Robby Hauck and Gavin Robertson ran out for the first time as starters on the defense.

By enlarge, the guys playing in their first game looked the part of seasoned veterans too.

Consider: Sneed was nearly flawless in the first half and finished with over 300 yards of total offense and a 66-percent completion rate.

Toure had a career and game-high seven catches totaling 56 yards, a touchdown and a clutch first down that iced the game for UM and Bingham also hauled in a touchdown pass.

Dante Olson was named Big Sky Player of the Week by two organizations, Reggie Tilleman had nearly as many tackles in one game (8) as he did all last year, and Robby Hauck had a key PBU that was almost an interception.

Montana’s overall youngest group, the offensive line, played like vets as well, with Keintz and Beaver tasked with defending preseason All-American Rickey Neal Jr., who was held in check with only seven assisted tackles on the day.

A good overall day at the office for Montana fresh faces, but Hauck made no bones about the fact he’s looking for improvement as the conference season draws near.

“We’ve got to keep practicing and get better. That’s what you do. There’s no magic. There’s 11 out there on both sides, and you either block them or you don’t. We need to block them,” Hauck said.

“Colton and Beav did a nice job. Certainly, the O-line works as a unit, and we have a lot of improvement to make with that unit, but there are some good things out there.”

HAWKEYE HEAVEN 2: Montana is now 6-2 in program history against teams from the state of Iowa. The Griz moved to 6-0 all-time against UNI, and have two losses to the Iowa Hawkeyes. Saturday’s game against Drake (Des Moines, Iowa) will be the ninth meeting for the Griz against a team from the Hawkeye State.

CAREER DAYS:
While Toure had a career day receiving, fellow sophomore Samuel Akem also set a new career-high with 52 yards receiving and a long of 29 yards.

Junior Justin Calhoun made a big impact in his first game at cornerback after swapping over from wide receiver. Calhoun posted three impressive pass breakups, a sack, and forced a fumble in his CB debut.

#37 Jesse Sims had a big game against UNI as well, putting in eight tackles, 1.5 TFLs, and forcing the first fumble of his career.

Senior punter Eric Williams set a new career mark with his boot, dropping four punts inside the 20 against UNI, allowing Montana’s improved special teams coverage to give the Panthers poor field position inside their own 25 on seven of their 14 drives.

Junior Adam Wilson was also solid in his debut as Montana’s kickoff specialist, kicking two touchbacks out of 5 attempts and averaging 63.8 yards-per-kick.

Senior receiver Keenan Curran dusted off his high school quarterbacking abilities against UNI, completing the first pass of his collegiate career, a 25-yard dart to tight end Colin Bingham on a double-pass trick play from Dalton Sneed. In case you’re wondering… One pass for one 25-yard touchdown gives Curran a QB efficiency rating of 640.00.

Freshman receiver Malik Flowers turned heads in the kick return game against UNI, running back his first-ever touch of the ball in a Grizzly uniform 37 yards following a Panther kickoff.

Senior safety Reid Miller, a transfer from the SEC’s Arkansas Razorbacks, was Montana’s second-leading tackler against UNI, totaling nine takedowns and adding a pass breakup. His nine tackles against the Panthers equaled the amount of tackles he had during the entire 2017 season with the Razorbacks.

GRIZ IN THE NFL:
Congratulations go out to former Grizzlies Brock Coyle and Trumaine Johnson, each of whom landed on an NFL roster after the deadline to trim squads to 53 men came and went. Coyle remains with the San Francisco 49ers, and Johnson signed a big deal with the New York Jets. Former running back Travon Van remains on the BC Lions’ roster in Canada as well.

BULLDOG BITES

ALL-PFL: Drake had four players named to the preseason All-PFL team by the league’s coaches over the summer. Six-foot-three senior receiver Steve Doran earned second-team All-PFL honors at the end of the 2017 year, as did 6-5, 290-pound left tackle Jordan Lewinsky.

Defensive tackle Nathan Clayberg (6-4, 282) picked up a preseason all-conference nod after garnering First-Team All-PFL honors with a 44-tackle campaign in ’17, and senior defensive back Sean Lynch is a returning first-team All-PFL performer as well.

GUNSLINGER: Fifth-year senior quarterback Grant Kraemer returns for his third season as a starter for the Bulldogs. Kraemer led the PFL with 261.6 yards passing per game and threw 20 TDs in ’17, only the second Bulldog since 1986 to throw 20 or more touchdowns in back-to-back seasons.

BEWARE THE PIONEER: While there were five FCS upsets over FBS teams, one of the biggest FCS over FCS upsets came out of the Pioneer League. On week one the Butler Bulldogs, who were picked to finish fourth in the PFL just behind Drake, produced one of the biggest upsets of the year, knocking Missouri Valley Powerhouse Youngstown State out of the top-25 with a 23-21 win in Youngstown.

San Diego, last year’s PFL winner and the pick to win the league again in ’18, caused an upset in the FCS Playoffs in ’17 when the Toreros traveled to Flagstaff and stunned Northern Arizona 41-10 in the first round.

UP NEXT: Montana faces its first road test of the season when it travels to Macomb, Ill to face the Western Illinois Leathernecks of the Missouri Valley Conference, who sit at 0-1 after a 23-26 loss to Montana State in Bozeman on week one.