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Grizzly Football: Montana (6-2, 3-1) @ Portland State (5-4, 3-2) Game Thread

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  • Grizzly Football: Montana (6-2, 3-1) @ Portland State (5-4, 3-2) Game Thread

    When I first saw the schedule for the 2019 season the next two weeks were games that immediately made me nervous. After the last two weeks, color me more nervous. Yuck.

    Part of the reason these games are scary because the end of the season for the Griz is undoubtedly tough. In the past three years it has been this part of the schedule that has derailed the season for the Griz, so as a fan this week especially has me on heightened alert.

    Bob Stitt’s teams could never get over the hump in November and Bobby’s first year back was a continuation of the same. The Griz survived Eastern Washington last week, but in some ways this game against Portland State is a bigger test. On the road against a talented skill team that in recent years has had the Grizzlies number (lost in 2015 and 2018) plus the game will be played in a glorified HS stadium and the Griz will be starting a backup QB for the second consecutive week.

    What the Griz need to do offensively:
    1. My concern generally over the years about backups is that as time wears on it increasingly obvious to opposing coaches how to effectively gameplan for them. One of the elements that is lost on fans when you move from QB1 to QB2, is how stylistically different the quarterbacks are. This is why some programs struggle immensely with the their QB2 in because that quarterbacks skill set is so vastly different than what you’ve been asking the offense to do all year. Eastern appeared to be a ‘management’ game in that Humphery wasn’t asked to do much himself, and the scheme/play calling seemed to suggest that parts of the play book had been eliminated. The problem going forward is that type of management doesn’t work as well because unless you change the scheme and formationing the defense has a good idea as to what might happen. Being able to show and execute more against PSU is going to be essential, because I gotta figure PSU is going to sell out to stop the run game.

    2. Get Toure and Akem involved. Last week was about TE’s and back outs in the pass game. Giving those two an opportunity in the short to intermediate passing game is going to a long way at taking the pressure off of Humphery and the OL. In reality, Humphery did a great job taking the check down last weekend, but he is going to be asked to take the top off a bit to force PSU out of a 6 or 7 man box. Humphery has the arm to press the ball down the field, and can throw the middle a bit more comfortably than Sneed might. That comes w/ a bit of risk obviously, but using the middle of the field field with Toure and Akem is a great way to get PSU out of tight alignment out of its secondary players.

    3. This team has been averse over the past couple of years of running screens, but this is a great week at getting JLM and Knight involved in some middle of the field action to take pressure off the online. Pace of play will help, but running fly sweeps, quick screens can be as effective in mitigating LB middle pressure. Forcing linebackers to move horizontally makes loading the box difficult against the run. PSU puts a ton of pressure on teams, and putting in max protect personnel makes life a bit more difficult for Humphery than it makes it easier.

    What the defense needs to do:
    1. This week poses a bit different challenge than the past three weeks. PSU controls the clock better than any team in the conference. They churn out first downs, convert 3rd downs, and run the ball down peoples throats. When you face teams like that, you play in poor situational leverage most of the game. In an ideal world you make teams like PSU get in a lot of long third down conversions, but that generally is wishful thinking. When you are in poor situational leverage, it drastically limits play call freedom. This week I think you could expect some tactical run blitzes to help take the pressure off the front 7. The 3-3-5 is suited to do that. Rocky Long’s teams were pretty adept at using the positional flexibility of the 3-3-5 to its advantage against heavy run teams. This is a week where you probably would see Robbie Hauck used in a true rover format to help create blocking problems up front for PSU.

    2. From a secondary perspective, what makes PSU difficult is while they run the ball well and going clock, they are really good at getting the defense into advantaged matchups in the secondary. Having Taomaupeau as a TE helps, but they have 4 receivers with 20 catches or more and 5 with plays longer than 50 yards. As a comparison, UM has only one play in the passing game that has a 50 yard reception. PSU is going to get some 1v1 matchups on the perimeter, and by a general rule DB coaches will want to impress their guys to stay over the top and be true secondary run game players. This is going to be a tough week for Sandry and Hauck especially. Making PSU grind the football down the field rather than taking the top off the defense is going to be essential in Grizzly success.

    3. If there was one statistic that jumps out it is the roughly 45 percent conversion rate on third down. PSU plays so much in leveraged down hill situations, and that means Montana is going to have to win on first down. This makes defensive coordinators super nervous, because players start to get hyper when they are on the wrong side of the clock and the scoreboard. They vacate rules to make a big play. Baer is going to take some shots on first down because PSU is a bit porous up front. Alexander has 500 plus in rushing so far this but also has taken 150 yards of negative plays. You don’t stop 3rd down conversions on 3rd down, you make it more difficult by what you do on first. Because the UM is likely to look more like a 3-4 or a 3-5 this week than a 3-3 or even a 3-2, you can expect Baer to open up his run blitz scheme as noted above.

    What the Griz need to do to win:
    1. Get to 70 plays offensively. PSU’s defense is good, though they have played ISU, UI, SUU, NC and NAU. Only NAU would be at all considered to be an offensive juggernaut, and UI/SUU and NC are bottom 5 offenses. If UM can play with enough pace offensively, regardless of success, I think that pace will wear out PSU’s defense. The statistics are a bit deceiving, but if Montana can find a way to play with a similar pace they had with Sneed as the QB I think that’ll put some pressure on a defense that hasn’t see a lot of the field in its five conference games.

    2. Flip the field. This is a game where the UM special teams has an opportunity to win the week. PSU in conference and otherwise, has been merely average in coverage and their own return game. While the UMM PR/KOR hasn’t gotten many opportunities lately, this is a week between were they may be given the chance to break some plays.

    3. Get to 30 points. I didn’t have a real feel for last week and I wasn’t sure if getting to 35 was going to be enough, but this week I think it might. PSU might be better defensively, but their success on offense plays to UM’s strength. I think if Montana can get to 35, it should be enough to win. I think there will be enough juice in the Griz after last week and the a bit of a chip on their shoulder that there isn’t a high chance they come out flat.

    I think the Griz win, but this game makes me nervous and it might come down to CH winning it with his arm rather than MK with his legs. This is the type of game that can remove all doubt as to the path or trajectory of the season. Last couple of years these types of games haven’t gone the UM’s direction. S needs absence increases the odds that it won’t, but I think there are too many other variables that do lean in UM’s favor. UM can get big plays from multiple players on offense and it has shown to be far better against the run than the pass the year. This smells as a big week for Dante Olson on defense and Toure on offense.