By ERIC TABER
The No. 11/12 Montana Grizzlies return home for the team’s fourth game of the season in the friendly confines of Washington-Grizzly Stadium where UM will face the Weber State Wildcats for 53rd time in program history. Tickets still remain for this classic Big Sky showdown.
It’s also the annual pink game for cancer awareness, presented by Providence Health & Services and Team Up Montana. Fans are encouraged to wear pink and join the fight against cancer.
“They’re a good football team,” said Coach Stitt of Weber. “The score last week is not an indication of what kind of a team they have, and we’re going to have to come out and earn it.
“They do a good job with their run game, and I would expect them to try to do that more and get with the short game,” said Stitt, speaking on Weber’s attack.
“They’ve been pretty good against the pass, and will try to stop our run with a few less guys in the box. They’re pretty good against the pass, and we’ve got to be prepared to go in and run the ball,” Stitt added about Weber’s defense.
THE GAME: The Grizzlies (3-2, 2-0) face Weber State (2-3, 1-1) in league play following a 27-13 win at UC Davis that put UM into third place in the Big Sky Conference standings.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats check in looking to rebound after an uncharacteristic 44-0 drubbing at the hands of Southern Utah where the ‘Cats suffered six turnovers, five of which were interceptions.
Before the loss to the T-birds, Weber State has been able to put up points on some of the top teams in the nation, falling to North Dakota State 14-41, and Oregon State 7-26. Weber then strung together two wins in a row over Sacramento State and Northern Colorado, 32-14 and 38-17 respectively.
SERIES/HISTORY: The Griz are 39-13 all time against the Wildcats, and winners of the last 13 contests in a row played in Missoula. The last Weber victory was in 2010, a 30-21 final, played in Ogden.
LAST MEETING: In 2013, Jordan Canada rushed for a career-high 189 yards and two touchdowns to lead Montana to a 42-6 win over Weber State. The Grizzlies (9-2, 5-2 Big Sky) piled up 461 yards of total offense, with John Nguyen, Marlon Miles and Shay Smithwick-Hann each rushing for a TD.
TV/STREAMING: The broadcast rights to this Big Sky Conference game were waived by ROOT SPORTS, therefore the #GRIZvsWSU 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 at gogriz.com.
The game will also be streamed for free world wide at watchbigsky.com.
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. Adam Painter will be on the sideline. Live broadcast can be heard statewide on the Montana Grizzly Radio Network, and worldwide on gogriz.com.
RANKINGS: The Grizzlies moved up a spot in both the NCAA FCS Coaches’ Poll and the STATS FCS Media Poll after defeating UC Davis on the road.
In the Coaches’ poll, the Griz picked up 362 points to move from 12 to 11 in the rankings at the expense of Montana State, who fell from No. 11 to 19 after the Cats’ loss to Northern Arizona.
In the SATS FCS media poll, the Griz also slide up a spot to No. 12 with 2047 votes. The Bobcats fell from No. 11 in the media poll to 18.
KIDDER EARNS BIG SKY AWARD: Grizzly defensive tackle Caleb Kidder was awarded the ROOT SPORTS Big Sky Conference player of the week award after a monster of a game at Davis where the junior from Helena tallied seven tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and an interception as well, playing a crucial role in the Griz road win.
It was the second ROOT SPORTS Big Sky player of the week award for the Grizzlies in as many weeks after Tyrone Holmes put in four sacks against Northern Arizona.
As a defensive unit, Montana leads the nation in sacks with 22 so far this season for a total loss of 131 yards.
HOLMES WATCH: A large part of Montana’s sack production has come from Tyrone Holmes, who enters Saturday’s game against Weber State as far and away the sack leader in the Big Sky conference with five in Big Sky play, and nine in the season overall.
Holmes’ nine sacks for a total loss of 45 yards ranks him first in the nation over five games, averaging 1.8 per contest.
Holmes is also ranked fourth in the nation in the tackles for loss category, with an average of 2.1 per game.
JONES MOVES INTO TOP 10: By his own standards, Jamaal Jones had a somewhat quiet day at UC Davis, hauling in 61 yards and a TD.
Even so, the additional yardage put the senior from Spanaway, Wash. at 2351 career receiving yards, cracking the ten all time receivers list at Montana, surpassing Etu Molden (’98-’01) and Joe Douglas (’95-’96) to move to eighth place.
Jones is ranked seventh in the nation in total receiving yards with 547 this year.
NACCARATO CLOSE TO RECORD: Chase Naccarato had 13 receptions for 84 yards against UC Davis last week, only two catches off tying the school record of 15 receptions in a game set by Josh Paffhausen in 1997 against St. Mary’s.
CALHOUN FINDS PAYDIRT IN FIRST ACTION: True freshman running back Jeremy Calhoun (6-0, 190, Long Beach, Calif. / Long Beach Poly HS) took the field at UC Davis and picked up his first career first down on his third touch of the ball. His second touch of the ball as a Griz would earn him his first-ever touchdown for Montana, a five-yard power burst off right tackle.
PASSING OFFENSE: The Grizzlies have reclaimed a place in the top 10 national rankings for Passing Offense, averaging 322.6 yards per game in the air, good enough for a ninth place ranking.
The Griz Breakdown
Coach Ty Gregorak’s Grizzly defensive unit will look to continue it’s dominant ways against Weber. UM’s D is ranked fourth in the Big Sky in scoring defense at 22.6 points per game, but leading the league in sacks with 22 total.
Montana’s red zone offense improved to tenth in the Big Sky with a 78.3 conversion rate, made up of nine touchdowns and 9-11 field goals.
Conversely, The Grizzlies Red Zone defense remains one of the strongest in the conference, allowing a 72.7 conversion rate and forcing two turnovers inside the oppositions 20, good enough for a second-place ranking in the category.
STRIKE QUICK: Coach Stitt’s hurry up offense that has led the Grizzlies to a 2-0 record in the Big Sky and 3-2 over all record is oddly ranked dead last in the Big Sky in time of possession. Over five games the Griz have had possession for a total of 130.55 minutes, averaging 26.11 per game.
Coach Stitt has stated his desire to see the Grizzly rushing game average around 200 yards per game. The Griz put 176 yards on the ground against UC Davis, and are currently ranked 11th in the conference in total rush yards, averaging 121.6 per game.
Meanwhile, the Montana offense is ranked third in the Big Sky in total production, averaging 444.2 yards per game, with 1613 yards in the air and 608 on the ground.