Griz Return Home to Face Western Illinois

On to the next.

After picking up one of the biggest wins in program history – a 13-7 victory over the then-No. 20 Washington Huskies in Seattle – the Montana Grizzlies have fueled the gas tank for the 2021 season.

Now it’s time to keep the pedal to the floor as the Griz return to Missoula for the home opener against the Western Illinois Leathernecks of the Missouri Valley Conference, a team that has bedeviled UM in recent history.

Montana will have momentum, however, and an expected capacity crowd behind it when it takes the field under the lights at Washington-Grizzly Stadium Saturday night, with a kick time set for 6 p.m.

KNOW BEFORE YOU #GOGRIZ: The University of Montana will be operating at normal capacity for Saturday’s game, with no mask or vaccination requirements for entry to Washington-Grizzly Stadium. However, there are several new fan experience improvement items this season that people will want to note before heading off to the stadium that evening.

MOBILE TICKETING: New this season, The Adams Center Ticket Office has moved to a 100% mobile and print-at-home ticket delivery system, offering fans the convenience of having tickets delivered to your mobile device and added flexibility in case of lost or stolen tickets.

Photo courtesy of Grizzly Athletics.

·       Visit on a mobile device or computer
·       Login to your account with your email and password
·       Click on Manage My Account
·       Choose REISSUE to download new Print-at-Home tickets
·       Choose TRANSFER to send tickets to someone else
·       Save mobile tickets to your wallet or print them at home
·       Scan your ticket on your phone screen at the gate, just like you would at the airport
-OR- Scan your print at home ticket

·       Instant delivery: No shipping errors
·       Security: Ticket office can provide more options in case of lost or stolen tickets
·       Flexibility: Send tickets to your friends and family easily via email or text
·       Convenience: Manage your account 24-hours a day at home with the ability to transfer and reissue tickets on demand
·       Easy resale: flexibility to resell unused tickets so we can reach sellout status for the best home-field advantage in the league
·       Sustainability: Reduces our carbon footprint due to less paper-and less shipping
·       Touch-free: No contact/handling for social distancing

For complete details on the new mobile ticketing system, including instructional videos and FAQs, visit

DIGITAL PROGRAMS: Montana fans can capture the memory of Saturday’s game easier this season with gameday programs moving to a digital platform.

Fans can pick up a free roster flip-card from any retailer inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium and scan a QR code for quick and easy access to the full gameday program.

ALSO NEW THIS SEASON: Alcohol will be available to purchase at a beer garden located at the south end of Washington-Grizzly Stadium beginning this week. The beer garden will be located just off the concourse, directly behind GrizVision, in a fenced-off area east of the Washington-Grizzly Champions Center.

Game ticket holders age 21 and older may purchase beer and wine inside the fenced-off area. Fans may bring food in, but beverages will not be allowed back into the stadium.

The new south side beer garden opens 90 minutes before kickoff and remains open through the third quarter. Patrons will be allowed to purchase two beverages, maximum. Entrance to the beer garden will only be available from inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

WATCH: ABC Montana will provide a statewide broadcast of the Grizzlies home opener Saturday night, and fans around the nation can tune in via the ESPN+ streaming service. Don’t want to subscribe to ESPN+? A stream of the non-conference game is also available to purchase on a limited-time basis at Fans who live in the state of Montana can also pick up a stream of the game on their mobile devices via the Watch SWX App.

Dennis Patchin will be on the play-by-play, with former Grizzly QB and Glacier High School head football coach Grady Bennett serving as the analyst. Shaun Rainey will be the sideline reporter.

LISTEN: “Voice of the Griz” Riley Corcoran and long-time analyst Greg Sundberg will bring you the action live from Missoula on KGVO Missoula, the flagship station of the Grizzly Sports Radio Network, and its fifteen affiliates around the state. Live audio web streams can also be found at

Also new in 2021, Griz fans have a better than ever way to stream all of Montana’s radio broadcasts on their mobile device LIVE and FREE of charge with the Varsity Network App, powered by Learfield and Sidearm Sports.

Fans can download the app for iPhone or Android use for instant access to free gameday audio streams and the Coach Hauck Radio Show and receive push notifications to remind them of games starting or upcoming audio broadcasts as well.

COACHES SHOW: The Bobby Hauck radio show returns in 2021 and is broadcast live across the state from the banks of the Clark Fork River at the show’s new home of FINN in the DoubleTree Hotel in Missoula, airing each Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Admission to watch the live broadcast at FINN is free, with a special coaches show menu available.


ABOUT THAT WIN: The Grizzlies became just the sixth FCS or 1-AA team to knock off a ranked FBS or 1-A team since 1983 with the 13-7 win at Washington on Saturday.

It had been five years since North Dakota State upset No. 13 Iowa in Kinnick Stadium as the last FCS team to beat a ranked opponent in 2016.

Eastern Washington is the only other Big Sky team to pull off the ranked upset when it beat No. 25 Oregon State in 2013.

Speaking of Oregon State: At UW, the Griz became the first non-FBS team to hold a Pac-12 opponent below 10 points since Grambling State beat the Beavers 23-6 in 1985.

HELMET STICKERS: Montana became a national college football media favorite following the win. ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer (who served as analyst during the ESPN broadcast of Montana’s 2015 win over NDSU in Missoula) giving the Griz a helmet sticker as his team of the week on College Football Primetime, among other notable kudos from national medial.

The Grizzlies were also named the Stats Perform FCS Team of the Week for the first time this season following the win.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Montana earned two ROOT Sports Big Sky Player of the Week awards following the upset over Washington.

After leading a dominant defensive effort, junior linebacker Marcus Welnel was named player of the week for the first time in his career with a game-high 12 tackles, one sack, and the game-clinching interception. He also earned an honorable mention for the Stats Perform FCS defensive player of the week.

Punter Brian Buschini was named Big Sky special teams player of the week after helping Montana flip the field and win the position battle against the Huskies.

The freshman averaged 47 yards on seven punts for a total of 329 yards, with a thunderous boot of 58 yards for a game long. He also dropped a game-high three punts inside the Washington 20 yard line to pin the Huskies deep in their own territory. Buschini was also an honorable mention for the Stats Perform FCS freshman of the week.

Both Welnel and Buschini are natives of Helena, Mont., and are both graduates of Helena Capital High School.

All-time FCS/1-AA wins over ranked FBS/1-A Opponents

Sept. 4, 2021 Montana 13-7 No. 20 Washington
Sept. 17, 2016 North Dakota State 23-21 No. 13 Iowa
Aug. 31, 2013 Eastern Washington 49-46 No. 25 Oregon State
Sept. 11, 2010 James Madison 21-16 No. 13 Virginia Tech
Sept. 1, 2007 Appalachian State 34-32 No. 5 Michigan
Sept. 10, 1983 Cincinnati 14-3 No. 20 Penn State

HAPPY HOMECOMING FOR HAUCK: Bobby Hauck won his first-ever meeting as Grizzly head coach against Washington, the team he helped coach from 1999-2002. Hauck served as the defensive backs and special teams coach for the Huskies under Rick Neuheisel in that four-year stretch, and helped lead UW to a win in the 2000 Rose Bowl.

Following Saturday’s win, Hauck appeared on “Full Ride” with Neuheisel and Chris Childers on ESPNU Radio/SiriusXM, the “Stupodity” podcast with Mike Golic and Stugotz, as well as “Freddie & Fitzsimmons” on ESPN Radio.

The win was Hauck’s 99th overall as Grizzly head coach. The winningest coach in UM history, Hauck enters this week’s game against Western Illinois in search of No. 100 with a 99-26 record in 10 years with the Griz.

COACHING CONNECTIONS: Two other Grizzly coaches have also spent part of their careers on Montlake. Montana defensive coordinator Kent Baer also served as the Huskies’ DC from 2005 to 2007 under Tyrone Willingham. UM receivers coach and associate head coach Brent Pease was Chris Petersen’s receivers coach at UW in 2014 and 2015.

BIG WEEK FOR THE BIG SKY: Montana’s upset over Washington was one of three wins for the FCS Big Sky Conference over FBS opponents on week one of college football. Eastern Washington beat UNLV 35-33 in double overtime in Allegiant Stadium after taking a 20-6 lead into the fourth quarter. UC Davis and head coach Dan Hawkins went to Tulsa and came away with a 19-17 win over the Golden Hurricanes as well.

The Big Sky has four FCS to FBS non-conference games lined up in week two, with Portland State playing at Washington State, Idaho traveling to Indiana, Cal Poly traveling north on I-5 to take on Fresno State, and Idaho State taking on Nevada.

SECOND HALF SUCCESS: Montana scored 10 points in the fourth quarter at Washington to pull off the upset of the century and to continue UM’s second-half strength that dates back to the 2019 season.

In the spring season of 2021, the Griz outscored its two opponents 56-7 combined in the third and fourth quarters. In 2019, Montana scored 286 of its 514 points that season in the second half, while allowing opponents to score just 131 points in the two periods.

LAST TIME IT HAPPENED: Senior Gavin Robertson picked off two passes to help lead the Griz over the Huskies in week one. The last Grizzly to pick off a pair of passes in a game? Dareon Nash against Drake on week two in 2018.

Welnel’s game-clinching INT in the fourth quarter was the third of the day for UW QB Dylan Morris. The last QB to throw three picks to the Griz? Weber State’s Jake Constantine in 2019 in Missoula.

In the “not so good last time it happened” category: the last player to return a punt for a TD against the Griz? Steve McShane for Western Illinois in 2018. More on that later. Prior to that, the last opponent to return a punt for a TD against the Griz? Washington’s Dante Pettis, who would run one back 67 yards to set the Pac-12 record for most punt return touchdowns.

CLIMBING IN THE RECORD BOOKS: With nine tackles against Washington, Robby Hauck is now tied on Montana’s all-time tackler list with national championship-winning linebacker Mike Bouchee with 245 stops to his name. Jace Lewis also climbed the same list with six tackles at UW, and enters the game with 225 stops, passing the legendary Kroy Biermann to enter the week tied with Erik Stoll.

Receiver Samuel Akem had two grabs against UW, tying him on the all-time pass reception list with Mike Erhard with 144.

HOME OPENERS: Montana returns home this season carrying a 30-4 all-time record in home-opening games inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium and is riding a 17-game winning streak in the first game of the year in Missoula. That 17 games is tied for the fifth-longest active streak of home opener wins in the FCS after NDSU, James Madison, and McNeese all won at home on week one. With a win Saturday UM will tie with JMU at No. 18 on the list. The last time UM lost a home-opener? 2003 against NDSU in Hauck’s first home game at UM.

1:         23 North Dakota State – 1999-2021
2:         21 Central Arkansas – 2000-2020
3:         19 Harvard – 2001-2019
4:         18 James Madison – 2003-2021
5:         17 Montana – 2004-2020-21
17 McNeese – 2005-2021

WELCOME TO THE WEST: Macomb, Illinois, the home of Western Illinois, lies almost exactly an hour east of the Mississippi River. Historically speaking, teams from east of the “Mighty Mississip” have not fared well in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, with UM holding a 33-7 all-time record against teams from “back east.” Western Illinois is one of those seven, however, beating the Griz 43-40 in double overtime in the 2003 FCS playoffs.

ALL OF THE LIGHTS: Montana takes on the Leathernecks under the lights this week in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, with kick time set for 6 p.m. Montana is 8-2 since 2011 under the lights at home with two-straight wins at night, both under coach Hauck, against UNI and North Alabama.

BIG SKY/MVFC CHALLENGE: North Dakota beat Idaho State on week one to take an early 1-0 lead in the Big Sky/Missouri Valley Challenge Series this year. The Big Sky has three chances to retake the lead this week, with the Griz hosting Western Illinois, Sacramento State hosting Northern Iowa, and Northern Arizona traveling to South Dakota. The Leathernecks are also scheduled to play Eastern Washington on Sept. 18 in Macomb.

The MVFC has claimed victory in the first two editions of the series, winning 5-3 in 2018 and 6-4 in 2019.

SERIES HISTORY: Montana and Western Illinois have faced each other four times in program history, with the Leathernecks leading the series 3-1. Montana is 0-2 all-time on the road in Macomb, and 1-1 in Missoula dating back to the first meeting in 1964 when WIU visited and lost 7-0.

Since that day the Griz have suffered three tough losses to the Leathernecks. In 1998 WIU pasted UM 52-9 in an FCS/1-AA playoff game to end the Grizzlies’ season. Later in Haucks’ first season at UM, WIU came to town and knocked off the Griz 43-40 in a double-overtime playoff thriller.

In Hauck’s first season back at Montana, the Griz went to Macomb and lost an early lead in the fourth quarter when McShane ran back a punt for a 58-yard TD then caught an 11-yard TD pass to beat UM 31-29.

However, the last time Montana played in a series with only one win over its opponent? Last week against Washington, with the Griz now sitting 2-17-1 against the Huskies.

SCOUTING THE LEATHERNECKS: Coming off a 1-5 spring season, Western Illinois entered the fall of 2021 picked last in the MVFC preseason poll. But don’t be fooled, these dogs can bite.

The Leathernecks enter Saturday’s matchup coming off a narrow 31-21 loss to Ball State in their week one matchup. The Cardinal entered the game as the defending Mid-American Conference champions and winners of the 2020 Offerpad Arizona Bowl, where they defeated San Jose State 34-13. It was a massive win for Ball State, considering the Spartans posted one of their best seasons in program history in 2020 at 7-1, winning a Mountain West Conference championship over Boise State, 34-20.

Western Illinois threw for 367 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Ball State last week, outgaining the Cardinal 437-404 in total offense.

Senior QB Connor Sampson, who is slated to start against the Grizzlies, went 30-43-1 passing at Ball State for each of those 367 yards. His favorite target was 6-2, 205-pound senior receiver Dennis Houston, who hauled in 12 grabs for a whopping 237 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-long play of 75 yards.

Defensively, Safety Michael Lawson put in 14 tackles (9 solo) and forced two fumbles against Ball State. Fellow safety Darius Joiner added 12 more tackles, including one for loss.