By ERIC TABER for GoGriz.com
Last Saturday, Ben Roberts had the biggest reception of the biggest game in recent memory for the Montana Grizzlies.
With UM trailing 21-13 with just over six minutes left in the first half, quarterback Brady Gustafson targeted Roberts with a deep pass down the left sideline. Roberts climbed the ladder, extending over the defense and hauling in a 38-yard touchdown.
The Grizzlies went for two, and once again the Gustafson-Roberts combo came through. Montana tied the game at 28, and went on to win by three points. The touchdown catch was the only registered catch of the game for Roberts.
“When it happened, I was just yelling and feeling the emotion,” Roberts said. “I was just so excited. It was a special moment. I just went up there to try and make a play on the ball and came down with it.”
But for Roberts, the catch wasn’t even the most memorable moment of the day. The Missoula native felt more emotion running through the smoke and onto the field for the first time in his life.
“Just running out of the tunnel and the anticipation of that,” Roberts said, “I’ve always wondered what it was like to come out of there, and it was a really, really cool thing to do.”
Roberts was a star wide receiver at Sentinel High School, where he graduated in 2010. He has spent the last four years of his life in Pullman, Wash., playing baseball for Washington State University. He said he enjoys Missoula and being around family and high school friends.
He returns to Missoula at an exciting time for Montana football. Head coach Bob Stitt has revamped the Grizzly offense, using a lot of motion off the ball. The Grizzlies utilize a very high tempo to keep the defense on its back heels.
The coach said that he aims to run 45-50 plays each half, which is exhausting to defend. In order to do this, he runs a number of different players through the line-up. The Grizzly roster features 21 total receivers, not all of whom are playing this season.
The change to a new, up-tempo offense can be a difficult change for some players, but not for Roberts
“I guess it’s been pretty easy for the most part, because I haven’t played football for the last couple years,” Roberts said. “I haven’t had much of an adjustment to make, so its been good and I’ve enjoyed it. I’m glad I came in during this time with this staff.”
The game against North Dakota State marked the first time that No. 86 stepped foot on the gridiron for a competitive game in nearly five years. He has come a long way already since the start of camps, and he knows he can become even better.
“It was difficult at first, especially having not played any college football at all,” Roberts said. “The physicality of the game was something that I really had to adjust to during the first week or two, but I’m just trying to get better every single day, that’s all I can ask for right now.”