Griz Return Home for First-Ever Matchup with Fiery Ferris State

The Montana Grizzlies improved to 2-0 for the fifth-straight season under head coach Bobby Hauck last week with a decisive 43-13 road win at Utah Tech and return to the happy hunting grounds of Washington-Grizzly Stadium Saturday for perhaps their biggest test of the nonconference season.

Forget the D-II classification next to their name, the Ferris State Bulldogs flat-out win, win often, and win big.

Montana hosts the two-time defending D-II national champion and No. 1 ranked Bulldogs this week, looking to snap FSU’s eye-opening streak of 28 consecutive road victories and add to their very short list of regular season losses – only three since October of 2013.

The Griz are also on a roll, however, entering the contest with momentum from a pair of dominant wins, having outscored their first two opponents a combined 78-33 overall and 57-6 in the first half. All while still working on the right combinations at quarterback.

On paper, it’s a fairly evenly matched contest, with Ferris State employing a two-QB system to put up 92 points in its first two games with similar rushing and passing totals.

Photo courtesy of Grizzly Athletics

Bulldog coach Tony Annese has Ferris State rolling as the top team in D-II, with NFL-ready players on the roster (and three currently in the NFL). But they haven’t set foot in a venue like Washington-Grizzly Stadium, where Montana has only lost two games since 2019.

It’s a blackout in Missoula this week as well, with fans encouraged to join the team in wearing black under the lights, with kickoff set for 6:02 p.m. Fans are also encouraged to get in their seats early for a special guest raising the 37 flag.

KNOW BEFORE YOU #GOGRIZ: Griz Football is blacking out Washington-Grizzly Stadium this week. Get game-ready with these helpful tips:

MOBILE TICKETS – Download your tickets to the wallet app on your mobile device now, before you get to the game. TRANSFER YOUR TICKETS to friends and family via your GrizTix account before you enter the stadium.

MOBILE DEVICE – Charge the battery on your mobile device so you’re sure to have plenty of power to get your tickets scanned.

TRANSPORTATION – Double-check your transportation and parking options ahead of time.

GAMEDAY POLICY REMINDERS – Visit the Gameday Central page on to make sure you’re caught up with clear bag policies and other important gameday info.

GAMEDAY TIMELINE – Montana is hosting a special guest to raise the 37 flag this week. Be sure to get to your seats early so you don’t miss it!
1:30 p.m. – Parking Lots Open
3 p.m. – Ticket Office Open
4:30 p.m. – Stadium Gates Open
6 p.m. – Kickoff

WATCH: ABC/Fox Montana stations will carry a statewide, free-to-air broadcast of Saturday’s game.

Ron Davis will serve as the play-by-play man for the broadcast, with former Grizzly QB and current Kalispell Glacier High School head coach Grady Bennett serving as analyst. Shaun Rainey will report from the sidelines.

ESPN+ will carry a live, nationwide stream of the game with no regional blackouts.

LISTEN: “Voice of the Griz” Riley Corcoran is in his eighth season behind the mic at Montana and is once again set to bring you all the Grizzly action over the airwaves on the Grizzly Sports Radio Network and its fifteen affiliate stations around the state.

Your “Grizzly Gameday” starts two hours before kickoff each Saturday with the official pregame radio show with Ace Sauerwein and Denny Bedard before Corcoran and long-time color commentator Greg Sundberg take over 30 minutes to kickoff.

Griz fans outside the radio footprint can stream all of Montana’s broadcasts on their mobile device LIVE and FREE of charge with the Varsity Network App, powered by Learfield and Sidearm Sports.

BLACK OUT THE BULLDOGS: Montana fans will join the team this week in a “Black out” of Washington-Grizzly Stadium with black attire requested to match the black uniforms the team will wear on the field.

The Grizzlies’ blackout uniforms feature a black backdrop, with maroon numbers on the primary field, trimmed in white to make them pop. A medium-sized MONTANA adorns the chest of the uniform, with outlined numbers on the shoulders and a small script Griz logo on the collar. The pants are also black and feature a maroon and white stripe down the side.

A classic silver helmet completes the look but is mixed-up for the game with a large Griz paw print on the back as opposed to a script Griz logo on the sides.

THE SERIES: Saturday’s game marks the first-ever meeting with Ferris State, but not the first time a D-II team has come to play the Griz.

D-II teams paying a visit to Washington-Grizzly Stadium are few and far between but fill a necessary role in solving the challenge of getting nonconference opponents to travel to Missoula and face a team that has won nearly 90 percent of its home games since 1986.

The last D-II team to visit was in the pandemic spring season of 2021 when Central Washington fell to the Griz 59-3. CWU was also the previous D-II matchup for the Griz way back in 2014, a 48-14 win for UM. Oklahoma Panhandle State came to Missoula the previous year (2013) and lost 47-14 as well, and Western State (Colo.) came in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010 – both losses for the Mountaineers.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing against lower-division opponents, however. CWU nearly knocked off the Griz in 2008, with UM pulling out a 38-35 win over a team whose starting QB, Mike Reilly, was a Kalispell native. The Griz lost to a D-II team back in 2003 (Coach Hauck’s first home game at UM), when North Dakota State came to Missoula and pulled off the 25-24 upset before going on to become an FCS powerhouse.

Speaking of the Bison… Ferris State last played up against an FCS or D-I opponent back in 2013 when they fell 56-10 to North Dakota State in Fargo.

GRIZ IN THE POLLS: Montana moved on up in this week’s FCS coaches and media polls, with the Griz slotting in at No. 12 in the Stats Perform media poll and tied at No. 11 in the AFCA coaches poll.

One of only 11 2-0 teams in the top 25, UM picked up 764 points in the media poll to slide up a spot from No. 13, roughly 60 points shy of tying No. 11 New Hampshire. The Griz and UNH tied in the coaches poll with 343 points each.

The Big Sky Conference once again placed six teams in the top 25 this week, with Montana State (3), Idaho (5), Sacramento State (8), Weber State (9) and UC Davis (16) making the cut. Eastern Washington also received votes in the poll after a narrow loss at Fresno State last week.

• Montana will face four of the six ranked Big Sky teams in this year’s conference slate, having to travel to face UC Davis and Idaho but getting home-field advantage against Sac State and MSU. Due to an unbalanced league schedule, the Griz won’t face Weber State or Eastern Washington again in the regular season until 2024.

• Montana has been ranked in the FCS media top-25 now for 30 consecutive weeks, tied for the third-longest streak in the subdivision. Only North Dakota State (175 weeks) and South Dakota State (147 weeks) have been in longer.

• The Griz were picked to finish third by the league’s media and sixth by the coaches at the annual Big Sky Kickoff in the league’s annual preseason polls, announced in July from the Big Sky Kickoff in Spokane. Montana State was selected to win the title race in both polls.

• Montana also checked in at No. 7 in the FCS in this week’s Massey Ratings, a computer-generated raking system for all D-I teams. Weber St. (3), MSU (5), and Sac St. (6) are the only teams ahead of UM in the rating.


SATURDAY’S STARS: Offense: Nick Ostmo made a big impact in his return to regular Grizzly reps, leading all rushers in Montana’s win over Utah Tech with 118 yards and two TDs on the ground with 27 more receiving yards for a personal haul of 145 yards on the day. It was the senior’s third-highest career day rushing.

• With 1,319 career rushing yards, Ostmo is now No. 23 on Montana’s top-25 all-time leading rushers list. 

Defense: Trevin Gradney picked up another highlight-reel interception early in the game against Utah Tech that put the momentum squarely on Montana’s sideline. The Billings native also forced a fumble that was recovered by Ryan Tirrell for one of UM’s four takeaways against the Trailblazers.

• It was his second straight game with an interception. He’s the only player in the Big Sky with two INTs after week two and is tied for second in the FCS with nine other players who each have a pair.

• At +3 in the turnover margin, the Griz rank 12th nationally and second in the Big Sky in that category. With four total INTs Montana leads the league and ranks fourth nationally in total passes intercepted and is 2nd in the league in total turnovers with 6 takeaways.

Special Teams: Travis Benham totaled 258 yards on six punts with three landing in the 20 for an average of 43 yards per attempt against Utah Tech. His day was highlighted by a big 60-yarder that was downed on the 1-yard line. Three plays later, Junior Bergen returned a UT punt 47 yards for a touchdown.

• The Griz are 4th in the league and 7th nationally in net punt average, despite not allowing a single return yard at Utah Tech. Montana, known as “Special Teams U” in the FCS, is currently carrying a 43.56 net punt average. The Big Sky has been booming this season, with Weber (43.6), UNC (43.6), and Sac (44.57) all ahead of UM in that category.

• Bergen’s punt return was a thing of beauty, making several would-be tacklers miss before his blockers blazed a trail through a crowd of Trailblazers for the 47-yard score. He now leads the league and is fifth in the FCS in total punt returns with an average of 19 yards per attempt

•He’s also the last player to return a punt for the Griz, running one back 58 yards last season in the playoffs against SEMO. That gives the Billings native two punt return TDs in UM’s last four combined games.

EXPERIENCE MATTERS: Center AJ Forbes is scheduled to make his 30th career start this weekend against Ferris State, making him the most experienced in a veteran group. Combined, Montana’s projected starting offensive front enters the game with 92 total starts.

• Defensively, Alex Gubner hit a milestone as the most experienced player on the team last week, making his 40th career start at Utah Tech.

• Safety TraJon Cotton also hit a milestone last week with his 20th start at UM. He made the appearance count, too, hauling in his first career interception against the Trailblazers.

• In another first, tight end Evan Shafer (a D-II transfer) caught his first touchdown pass as a Grizzly last week, a 1-yard strike from Sam Vidlak late in the 3rd quarter.

CARRY THE ROCK: Behind that veteran O-Line, Montana has controlled the last two games with a steady drumbeat rushing attack, outrushing its first two opponents a combined 492 yards to 144 and averaging just shy of 5 yards per carry.

Ostmo had a day toting the ball with 118 on the ground and 145 all-purpose yards. It marked the second straight game a Grizzly has crossed the 100-yard rushing mark in two games.

Freshman Gillman rushed for 119 on week one against Butler. After scoring twice against Utah Tech, Gillman is now sixth in the FCS and second in the Big Sky in rushing TDs with three on the year.

Ostmo and Gillman haven’t carried all the full load though. Three Grizzlies have rushed for a two-game combined 100-plus yards, with QB Clifton McDowell totaling 106 yards rushing in two games after getting his first start at Utah Tech.

STOP THE RUN: After facing two primarily passing offenses, Montana enters the week ranked 5th nationally and is first in the league in rush defense, with opponents averaging just 72 yards on the ground per game.

The Griz have been getting off the field too, with a top-six FCS and No. 2 Big Sky third down conversion defense, allowing opponents to convert just 23 percent of the time.

OFFENSIVE OUTBURST: Montana’s offense has been humming along overall in the first two games with 78 total points scored, a top-10 total in the FCS and the second-most points in the Big Sky.

BEAT THE EAST: Montana is now 35-7 all-time against teams from east of the Mississippi River inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium after dispatching Butler on week one. Ferris State is UM’s second “eastern” team of the season to come to Missoula, hailing from Big Rapids, Michigan, north of Grand Rapids by about an hour.

HAUCK’S RECORD: Montana’s win over Utah Tech moves Coach Hauck now one game closer to becoming the Big Sky Conference’s winningest coach of all time. At 118-34 overall at UM he needs just 6 victories to break the overall win record set by former Northern Arizona head coach (and long-time UM assistant) Jerome Souers (123).

With a 67-18 conference record, Hauck also needs two more wins in Big Sky play to pass Nevada Hall of Famer Chris Ault at No. 3 on the league’s win list. He’s chasing Tim Walsh (Portland State/Cal Poly) who posted 74 wins, and Souers, who totaled 85 conference wins. Montana opens league play on Sept. 23 at NAU.

BULLDOG BITES: Over the last nine seasons, including this year, the Bulldogs have compiled a 102-10 overall record and claimed two national titles, five conference championships, posted five unbeaten regular seasons, captured five regional titles and reached the national quarterfinals six times.

• Ferris State has also accumulated three Harlon Hill National D-II Player of the Year trophies, twice had a student-athlete tabbed as the nation’s National Scholar-Athlete of the Year and won 20 postseason games in addition to an appearance in the 2018, 2021 and 2022 NCAA D2 National Championship Games.

• Now in the 11th season under head coach Tony Annese, FSU has posted a 117-17 overall mark in his tenure and the Bulldogs have posted the best winning percentage of all 21 collegiate programs in the state of Michigan. Overall, Annese has won 85% of his games as a head coach on the collegiate and prep levels and owns 342 wins to date.

• Under Annese, the Bulldogs have lost only three regular-season games over the past eight years dating back to mid-October of 2013. Two of the setbacks came in 2016 when the Bulldogs eventually made their deepest postseason run at the time with a trip to the D-II National Semifinals. The Bulldogs own an 87-4 (.956) regular-season mark since closing the 2013 season by winning their final four games.

• A strong nucleus returns from last year’s national championship team, including the bulk of FSU’s skill players and 65 letterwinners. FSU captured a second consecutive national title last fall with a 14-1 overall record and the Bulldogs were 28-1 overall in the past two seasons of action.

• FSU currently has three players on active NFL rosters, including DT Zach Sieler (Miami), CB Tavierre Thomas (Houston), and LB Caleb Murphy (Tennessee).