By ERIC TABER
The Montana Grizzlies football team will get a crack at some new FCS programs, as well as some of the top teams in the nation at any level, as future schedule details have been announced through 2021.
Highlighting the Grizzlies upcoming nonconference schedules are a 2019 game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, and a two games with the University of Washington Huskies that will see Montana travel to Seattle in 2017 and 2021.
“I think it’s exciting for our kids,” said first year Griz head coach Bob Stitt. “As much as we recruit the West Coast, especially Washington and Oregon, I think our players are going to be fired up to go out there and play, number one, against a Pac-12 opponent, but the big dogs in their home state. So it should be very exciting for us.”
In addition to the two Pac-12 opponents and the previously announced home-and-home series with Northern Iowa, the Griz will also host two FCS opponents from the Pioneer Football League and one from the Northeast Conference.
Traveling west to Montana in 2016 is Saint Francis University (Pennsylvania) out of the NEC, Valparaiso University (Indiana) in 2017 and Drake University (Iowa) in 2018 – both of the Pioneer Football League. All three are first time opponents for the Griz.
UM Athletic Director Kent Haslam believes he has scheduled these games with a clear eye to the strategic future of Grizzly Athletics.
“I like the idea of that if we’re going to play FBS schools that we stay up here in Northwest. It’s a place where we recruit. It’s also exciting for our student-athletes and our fans,” said Haslam.
Though not frequent in recent years, Oregon and Washington share a history with Montana as members of the old Pacific Coast Conference, where the Griz played from 1924-1950.
The Griz are 0-7-1 against Oregon lifetime. The last meeting between the two was in 2005 when the Griz traveled to Eugene and fell 14-47.
However, it was a different story in 1993, when the Griz nearly pulled off the upset in a30-35 loss to the Ducks. UM was led by a fresh faced QB from Great Falls by the name of Dave Dickenson, who had what many consider a breakout game that day.
Since then, Oregon has reached the upper echelons of college football, falling to Ohio State in the 2015 FBS National Championship.
A current UM Grizzly that could potentially suit up against the Ducks in 2019 is Oregon native and Griz freshman QB Willy Pflug.
“Obviously it would be awesome playing in the home state. I was a Beaver fan growing up, so it would be great to get a shot at the Ducks and beat ‘em.”
Montana is 1-16-1 against the UW Huskies, who haven’t faced off since 1951 when Washington won 58-7. The lone win for the Griz came in 1920 when UM travelled to Seattle and took home a 18-14 win. The teams also tied, 6-6, in Seattle in 1929.
The Huskies are a team on the rise in the Pac-12, having finished third in the conference’s north division last season at 8-5 overall, and losing to Oklahoma State in the 2015 Cactus Bowl.
Both Washington’s Husky Stadium and Oregon’s Autzen Stadium are renowned for providing some of the best college game day atmospheres in the country. A fact that makes these games equally exciting for the players and coaches alike.
“To play the Washington Huskies and the Oregon Ducks, man that will be awesome,” said Montana Defensive Coordinator Ty Gregorak.
“We get the best venue in in the FCS, and then to go play some of the great venues out on the West Coast will be big time.”
Fans can see Montana’s complete Big Sky Conference schedule through 2019 at gogriz.com.
Haslam expects to announce further home and home agreements with FCS teams in the near future.
Griz nonconference games through 2021
Sept. 3 – Saint Francis – Washington-Grizzly Stadium Sept. 10 – Northern Iowa – Cedar Falls, Iowa
Sept. 2 – Valparaiso – Washington-Grizzly Stadium Sept. 9 – Washington – Seattle, Wash.
Sept. 1 – Northern Iowa – Washington-Grizzly Stadium Sept. 8 – Drake – Washington Grizzly Stadium
Sept. 14 – Oregon – Eugene, Ore.
Sept. 4 – Washington – Seattle, Wash.