Griz Seek Rebound Against Rival Vandals

The Montana Grizzlies return to the road this week looking for a bounce-back performance against an old rival in the battle for the “Little Brown Stein” against Idaho.

In a contest that dates all the way back to 1903, the Griz (4-2, 1-2 BSC) travel to Moscow looking to extend their six-game win streak against the Vandals (2-4, 1-2), while at the same time needing to right the ship after suffering their first home loss since 2018 last week. Kickoff from the ASUI Kibbie Dome is set for 5:30 p.m. Mountain Time.

Montana enters the game stinging from a loss to the Sacramento State Hornets, while likewise, the Vandals take the field this week after getting trounced by Eastern Washington 71-21 in a historic day for the Eagles in Cheney.

While the Griz have two conference losses, Montana’s goals remain in front of it as the business end of the season ramps up. The Grizzlies’ two losses this season have been by the narrowest of margins, falling to EWU by six points and SAC by seven, and holding opportunities for game-winning heroics in each.

Montana’s win over the then-nationally FBS-ranked Washington Huskies looms large as a marker of the team’s capability, as does the 10 quarter stretch in the first three games of the season where the Grizzly defense didn’t allow a single point scored against it.

In the last calendar year, Montana’s offense has shown its ability to attack as well, outscoring its last eight opponents by a combined 281-107 dating back to UM’s two spring games.

But the Griz have once again been forced to look down the depth chart for injury cover in recent weeks, with freshman Kris Brown getting thrust into the starting QB role against Dixie State, among others.

Brown’s call to action marks the eighth-straight season UM has had to employ its backup quarterback. The last time the Griz went a full season with their starting QB was back in 2013, with Jordan Johnson going the distance under center.

All that goes out the window on Saturday though when the Griz/Vandals grudge match is played out for the 87th time in school history.

Montana hasn’t lost a game inside the Kibbie Dome since 1995 – the year UM won its first national championship.

Idaho has defended the dome in six of its last eight home games dating back to 2019, and has outscored its two opponents 110-35 at home so far this season.

Something’s gotta give in this border war battle.

THE MATCHUP: With multiple weapons at QB, head coach Paul Petrino’s Vandals are currently third in the Big Sky in total rushing, averaging over 189 yards per game on the ground. Leading the way is part QB, part RB Zach Borisch who averages nearly 53 yards per game on the ground with a total of 317 yards on 59 carries.

Borisch kept Idaho in the game last week at EWU in the first quarter, ripping off a 75-yard touchdown run to make it a one-score ballgame early on before the Eagles opened the flood gates.

He’ll have to contend with Montana’s Big Sky-best rush defense, which is allowing the seventh-fewest rushing yards in the FCS at an average of 76 per game, the only team in the Big Sky holding opponents to less than 100.

Led by former Montana defensive coordinator Mike Breske and Big Sky Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Trey Walker the Vandal defense takes advantage of a big and physical front seven, highlighted by nose guard Noah Elliss, who tips the scales at 367 pounds.

With size and speed, Breske knows how to get a defense moving too. He was part of the 2011 UM staff and was also the D-coordinator for the 2001 National Champion Grizzlies under head coach Joe Glenn.

SERIES HISTORY: Since Hauck returned to Montana in 2018 Idaho is 12-4 inside the Kibbie Dome, with the Griz handing the Vandals their only home loss that season in the victory that made him the winningest Grizzly coach of all time.

Idaho opened the spring season of 2020/21 with a big win in the dome, beating Eastern Washington 28-21 then falling to UC Davis a week later 27-17. The Vandal’s current three-game home winning streak started the week after that with a 33-32 squeaker over Southern Utah on a last-second score.

With only two home games so far this season Idaho has looked good, crushing Simon Fraser 68-0 in the season opener and riding a hot start past Portland State 42-35.

However, Montana heads to the Dome with a streak of its own to keep intact.

The Grizzlies have won 10 of the last 12 meetings against Idaho, dating back to 1991 before the Vandals left the Big Sky for the FBS. Montana is also riding a six-game win streak against Idaho that includes three wins over the Vandals while they were playing up in the FBS.

But a look at the big picture shows a distinct Vandal advantage, with Idaho holding a 55-29-2 all-time record against Montana in UM’s second-oldest rivalry, and 12-29-2 all-time record in games played in Moscow.

THE “LITTLE BROWN STEIN”: The winner of Saturday’s game will get to hold on to one of the most unique rivalry trophies in the Big Sky with the battle for the “Little Brown Stein,” which has resided in the halls of the Adams Center at UM since 2000.

Created by a student newspaper reporter in 1938 by the name of John T. Campbell ahead of a 19-6 Grizzly loss. The following year, however, Montana got its first drink from the stein and has won 24 of the last 61 meetings since.

WATCH: ABC Montana (SWX in Billings and Spokane/North Idaho) will provide a statewide broadcast of Montana’s Brown Stein battle from the Kibbie Dome, and fans around the nation can tune in via the ESPN+ streaming service. 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, who called Montana’s game against Western Illinois earlier this season, will be on the play-by-play call in Moscow. Former Grizzly QB and Glacier High School head football coach Grady Bennett will travel down and serve as the color commentator.

LISTEN:  “Voice of the Griz” Riley Corcoran and long-time analyst Greg Sundberg will bring you the action live from Moscow on KGVO Missoula, the flagship station of the Grizzly Sports Radio Network, and its fifteen affiliates around the state.

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. Live audio web streams can also be found at

Fans can download the app for iPhone or Android use for instant access to free gameday audio streams plus 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 this week, 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, each Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Admission to watch the live broadcast at FINN is free, with a special coaches’ show menu available.


GRIZ IN THE POLLS: After starting the year at No. 9 in the preseason polls, Montana dropped out of the top-10 last week for the first time this season following Saturday’s loss to Sacramento State. UM checked in at No. 11 in the Stats Perform FCS media poll and No. 12 in the AFCA FCS Coaches’ Poll and is the highest-ranked two-loss team in the nation.

Also at 4-2, Sacramento State cracked the top-25 for the first time this week, coming in at 19, while Eastern Washington sits at No. 2, Montana State at No. 8, and UC Davis at No. 10 in the media poll to round out the Big Sky’s representatives.

PICKS FOR DAYS: With four interceptions in the last four games, cornerback Justin Ford leads the Big Sky and is now tied for the second-most picks in FCS football this season, riding an unprecedented string of turnovers.

No player in recent Grizzly history (1990-present) has had four straight games with at least one pick in each. The last Grizzly to pick off four passes in a season was 2019, when defensive end Alex Gubner famously nabbed four INTs. The last Grizzly to pick off MORE than four passes in a season was Matt Hermanson in 2014 with six, bolstered by three in one game against MSU.

In fact, the last time the Grizzlies as a team had four straight games with at least one INT was in 2015 when they went five straight games with a pick to close out the regular season.

OUTSTANDING O’CONNELL: Patrick O’Connell forced two of the five total Sac State fumbles on Saturday. The last Grizzly to force two fumbles in a game? Future NFL linebacker and Super Bowl veteran Brock Coyle forced a pair against Montana State in 2013.

O’Connell leads the Big Sky in forced fumbles with three this season. The junior also leads the league in sacks with 7.5 and is third in tackles for loss with 11.5.

CARRY THE ROCK: Heading into last Saturday’s game, freshman running back Xavier Harris was on a three-game streak of rushing for 100-plus yards in each.

Despite missing much of last week’s game and missing the Western Illinois game alltogether, Harris remains the fifth-leading rusher in the Big Sky going into week eight. In five games Harris has racked up 396 net yards and is averaging over five yards-per-carry.

Harris missed his chance to expand on his three-game, 100-plus yard streak against Sac State. Even still he remains the first Grizzly with that kind of rushing streak since John Nguyen had three, 100-plus yards games in 2015.

BIG BOOT BUSCHINI: Brian Buschini’s boomed a career-long 62-yard punt against Sac State – the sixth-longest in the Big Sky this season. The longest is a 70-yarder by Southern Utah’s Jake Gerardi, and the second-longest, notably this week, belongs to Idaho’s Caleb Lightbourn at 68 yards.

Buschini’s 62-yarder was the longest punt for a Grizzly since Adam Wilson uncorked a 73-yarder at Weber State in the final game of 2019. Prior to that, however, the Griz hadn’t punted a ball that far since Stephen Shaw had a 64-yarder against South Dakota in 2014.

The Helena Capital grad has been a big part of Montana’s FCS-best punting unit that continues to lead the FCS in net punting, averaging 44.8 yards per attempt, which is also the sixth-best net punt average in all of D-I football.

RECORD WATCH: Robby Hauck continues to rocket to the top of Montana’s all-time tackler list. With 13 against Sac St and 295 now in his career (still with a year to play), he passed six different Grizzlies’ career totals last week: Shawn Lebsock (294 – 2006-09), Brock Coyle (293 – 2009-13), Caleb McSurdy (293 – 2008-11), Jason Crebo (289 – 1994-97), Todd Ericson (287 – 1990-93), Curt McElroy (284 – 1979-82).

2001 Buchanan Award Finalist Trey Young was on the sideline this weekend for the ’01 team’s 20-year anniversary, and Shann Schillinger was on the sideline coaching the Grizzly safeties. Jace Lewis passed both of their career tackle totals with nine stops on Saturday to improve his career total to 258.

Samuel Akem keeps rising amongst Montana’s all-time receiver ladder, and is now tied with another 2001 legend in Etu Molden with 161 career catches. Akem’s 2297 receiving yards moves him passed former teammate Jerry Louie-McGee and Ellis Henerson’s all-time total in yadage, and is now just three yards shy of passing Molden’s career mark of 2,300.

Akem also needs just one more touchdown catch to tie Molden’s career total as well as Mike Erhardt and Shalon Baker at 26. He’s now also only five TDs shy of passing Marc Mariani’s school record of 29.


• Montana’s loss to Sac State marked the first time this season the Grizzlies have been outrushed by their opponent, with UM’s ground game limited without the use of Xavier Harris after the second quarter.

• The Griz were also out-passed by Sac State, with the Hornets throwing for 302 yards to UM’s 188. The Griz are just 2-2 on the season when the opponent wins the air attack.

• The Griz have had the luxury of deciding who gets the ball to start the game this season. So far Montana is 6-0 in the opening coin toss, electing to defer possession until the second half each week.