By MICK HOLIEN
It wasn’t with a warm feeling that I pulled away from Stewart Stadium in Ogden two years ago after the Wildcats handed it to the then No. 3 Griz by outscoring them 42-14 over the last three quarters to eventually prevail 45-28.
While Montana would return the favor several weeks later in the midst of a run to the National Championship, any time you turn the ball over four times and give up seven sacks, it should come as no surprise that most teams are not going to make their way to victory lane.
But that 2008 Grizzly team won its next 10 before losing to Richmond in the chipper. After all, it had been 10 years since Weber State had beaten Montana. I guess maybe it was their turn.
The Wildcat quarterback that day was Cameron Higgins, a highly heralded Hawaiian sophomore who threw for 237 yards and three touchdowns, two to Mike Phillips.
When the Grizzlies take the field Saturday afternoon that same Cameron Higgins will still be throwing to Mike Phillips along with senior Joe Collins.
And while Trevyn Smith isn’t in the backfield where he burned the Grizzlies for 158 yards in that loss, Vai Tafuna and Bo Bolen, who both rushed for better than 150 yards last week against Portland State, are more than capable of matching Smith’s level of expertise.
Higgins, a Walter Payton Award candidate, moved into a tie with Dave Dickenson and Eastern Washington’s Matt Nichols last week for the Big Sky Conference career touchdown lead with 96. It should be noted, however, that Nichols has accumulated his stats in nine more games than Dickie since the Grizzlies did not count playoff statistics until after Dickenson’s career was over.
Higgins is now third in career passing yardage behind Nichols and Weber’s Jamie Martin, and stands fifth on the league’s total offense listing.
According to the league, he needs to average 263.5 yards per game in Weber’s final four outings to establish a new league passing standard.
The Wildcats tallied their inaugural first-quarter touchdown last week when Tafuna, a 245 lb senior who had just 35 rushes coming into the PSU game, scored on a 60-yard run to open the scoring.
Griz defensive coordinator Mike Breske will have his hands full with Weber’s prolific offense, but you can bet everything will be done to keep Higgins from breaking the TD mark against Montana.
An additional key to Higgins is the lack of pressure teams have been able to exert.
While he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns (13 versus 11), he has been sacked only four times in seven games. That, to me, (and no doubt to Robin Pflugrad) is an amazing statistic. It’s a testament not only to the work of his offensive line, but also to his mobility and pocket sense to get the ball out when pressure is coming.
Opponents have racked up yards (an average of 411) and points (almost 30) against Weber State, but the biggest challenge I see is if you choose to get pressure, your coverage has to win one-on-one, and you still have to be able to stifle the run.
With two league losses the Wildcats are not out of the league race and at 4-3 still hold out playoff hopes.
Let’s hope it doesn’t take another “Cardiac Kid” effort to make the nearly 1,000-mile round trip bus trip pleasurable and worthwhile.
Back to Mick it Missoula Blog home page