By ERIC TABER For GoGriz.com
Fresh off a program defining 38-35 victory over the #1 ranked North Dakota State, the Montana Grizzlies will get another shot at redemption of a 2014 loss as the Cal Poly Mustangs visit Washington-Grizzly Stadium for a non-conference game under the lights.
The Grizzlies lost to the Mustangs in 2014 when Cal Poly racked up 528 yards of total offense en-route to a 41-21 victory in San Louis Obispo. Led by quarterback Chris Brown, who rushed for 226 yards and scored two TDs, snapping a three-game Griz winning streak.
Montana Defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak will be faced with stopping almost two entirely separate offensive schemes. The Mustangs were successful last season in operating a triple option, wishbone type offense, and are known to jump right into a spread attack, allowing them to put together long, methodical drives that chew up minutes.
“It’s a little scary for our up-tempo offense,” said first year Grizzly mentor Bob Stitt.
“If we can’t get them off the field, and they’re burning up a bunch of minutes on the clock, it’s going to shorten the game, and we’re not as effective as an up-tempo offense if our defense can’t get off the field.”
The Griz will also face an important task this weekend of putting one of the greatest victories in Montana history behind them, and ensuring the team doesn’t suffer a second game slump.
“It’s not hard for me, and I hope it’s not hard for the players either because you win a game like that, you really want to get back out on the field against someone else to prove that you can do it again, and again and again.
“We didn’t win the national championship. We’re 1-0, and we’re just trying real had to get to 2-0,” Stitt adds.
THE GAME: The #12 Griz (1-0) host the Cal Poly Mustangs (0-0) in the Mustang’s season opener at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. The matchup is a non-Big Sky Conference game. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 5.
The game is presented by Karl Tyler Chevrolet & Cadillac
SERIES/LAST MEETING: UM leads the all time series 15-3. Cal Poly defeated the Griz 41-21 last year in San Louis Obispo.
TV/STREAMING: The #GRIZvPOLY game will be shown on Cowles Media stations statewide and in Washington. Chris Byers will provide the play-by-play, with color commentary by former Griz coach Mick Delaney and Grady Bennett providing analysis. Shaun Rainey will be on the sidelines. See a complete list of Cowles stations atgogriz.com.
Altitude Sports will also air the game to fans out of state. Altitude is available in a 10-state region that includes all or parts of: Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah.
Select Altitude programming is available nationwide on Dish Network and DirecTV satellite services.
Altitude on Dish Network, nationwide: Channel 413
Altitude on DirecTV will now be channel 681, ALT2 will be 682, and Altitude HD will now be channel 681-1
GRIZ RADIO: Veteran play-by-play man Mick Holien takes the mike for his 23rd season as “Voice of the Griz”. Greg Sundberg moves into the booth this season along side Holien after four seasons as sideline reporter. Live broadcast can be heard statewide on the Montana Grizzly Radio Network, and worldwide on gogriz.com.
LAST GAME: The #12 ranked Griz scored on a last second touchdown from running back Joey Counts to dethrone the #1 ranked, and four-time defending national champion North Dakota State Bison. The game was billed as the annual “FCS Kickoff” game on NBS, and was the only game to be played in America that day. Therefore, no rankings or standings have been adjusted this week.
NEW ATTENDANCE RECORD: Griz fans set a new Washington-Grizzly Stadium attendance record at the Aug. 29 NDSU game with a total of 26,472 people packing the stands.
MILLIONS OF EYEBALLS: The Montana/NDSU game received a 0.7 rating on ESPN, and was seen by 981,000 viewers nationwide. Over the last week, the official Montana Grizzlies Facebook page has received 1.1 million person reach.
#InGusWeTrust: Junior quarterback Brady Gustafson made the most of his first start as Grizzly, throwing for 434 yards. Gustafson became the first Grizzly to tally 400+ yards of total offense (447) since Jordan Johnson booked 412 yards vs Costal Carolina in 2013.
For his efforts, the NCAA named Gustafson the FCS player of the week with 434 yards in the air on 30/55 passing and three touchdowns.
JAMAAL JONES UPDATE: Jones hauled in 119 yards receiving last week to put him at 1,923 career receiving yards for the Griz, moving him up the all time list to 16th. If Jones continues on his path to another 1,000-yard season, he will finish as the second most prolific receiver in Montana history.
HENDERSON SHINES: Ellis Henderson made his return to the Griz against NDSU, leading all receivers in the game with 133 total yards that included a 62 yard touchdown pass. He now has 1,501 career yards, and moves up four places on the all time receivers list to 25th place.
Henderson still has two years of eligibility left after receiving a medical waiver from the NCAA.
WELCOME BEN ROBERTS: Roberts, a senior transfer from Washington State (where he played baseball) has exactly two catches in his Grizzly career… one was for a spectacular 38 yard TD, the second was on the very next play, completing the two-point conversion.
THE GREEN HAT: Perhaps the number one question for Coach Stitt following the NDSU victory? “What’s up with the green hat?” Answer: Coach Stitt wears the green hat so his quarterbacks can find him quickly on the sideline, a necessity in his hurry up offense.
The Griz Breakdown
The Montana defense proved it’s mettle against the nation’s #1 team in North Dakota State, allowing 35 points and keeping the Bison’s much vaunted rushing attack to 229 yards, and holding the passing game to only 198 yards on 16 attempts.
The Griz linebacker corps will get a boost as starting linebacker Herbert Gamboa returns to the fray after serving a one-game suspension. Gamboa is the third leading returning tackler for the Griz in 2015, putting 107 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and a forced fumble last year.
The Montana secondary will get a boost in size with Yamen Sanders working his way into the starting lineup at Safety. The secondary played particularly well against North Dakota State, with JR Nelson making a spectacular pass breakup, and Nate Harris putting in a pair of key pass breakups.
The key to this week’s defense will be to stop QB Chris Brown and Cal Poly’s triple-option and spread offense.
Fans who remember the Don Read era of Griz football may have had flashbacks on Saturday as the Griz piled up 544 yards of total offense, 434 of which came through the air. The performance by Brady Gustafson & co. was reminiscent of the Dave Dickenson days when Montana teams would put up 400-500 yards in the air while keeping defenses honest with around 100 yards on the ground.
New players for the offense stood up and made a case for more playing time last week, with Ben Roberts taking a spectacular TD grab, and Reese Carlson hauling in a fourth down pass that led to the Griz win. Ellis Henderson and Jamaal Jones proved their leadership however, each surpassing the 100-yard mark in the opening game of the season
The offensive line started last Saturday’s game as one of the question marks of the 2015 Griz, but after allowing only two sacks and giving Gustafson plenty of time to throw for 400-plus yards, Coach Germer’s unit is looking much improved.
Be sure to check back on MakeItMissoula on Sunday for Photo Gallery by Mark Mesenko.