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Grizzly Football: Montana (8-2, 5-1) v. Weber State (8-2, 6-0) Game Thread

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  • Grizzly Football: Montana (8-2, 5-1) v. Weber State (8-2, 6-0) Game Thread

    Weber State hasn’t lost an FCS in almost a calendar year. Their last loss came against Maine in early December of last year. Their last loss in conference? October of 2018, more than a year ago. They haven’t had more than two Big Sky conference losses since since 2015. They have been good. Really good.

    Since 2015, Weber State has:

    1. 7 BSC conference losses (4 road, 3 home)
    2. Given up 40 points in a conference game only once. Northern Arizona (2015). Given up 30 points only 6 times since 2016.
    3. Either led the conference in Pass Defense, Total Defense and Rush Rush defense in that time period.
    4. Given up no more than 21 ppg since 2016 and ranked 1st 2017 to Present.

    There is no way around it, Weber State has been dominant.

    There is at least by statistical measures very little differentiating WSU this year from teams of the past. As I alluded to on twitter what WSU has done since 2015 defensively is mind boggling. They have given up 500 yards only once, and 450 only a few times. It has been at least since prior to the 2016 season that WSU has given up 500 yards to a BSC opponent. Outside of a blip here or there against FBS opponents, this defense has been absurdly good.

    The task on Saturday is a stiff one. Find a way to score points. Play from the lead? That is another story altogether. Weber is the BEST positive leverage team (playing with a lead) in the conference and chance limiting teams. Of the top 4 defenses in the conference, Weber sees 6 few snaps than Sac State, 8 fewer than MSU and 10 fewer than the UM. In other words their defense sees fewer plays and plays with the lead. That is a lethal combo.

    So how does the UM solve the impenetrable wall that is WSU?

    1. You are going to get beat up by WSU. They manhandled Sac States unicorn offense by pounding Thomson and eliminating Dotson from the game plan. You have to take their punches defensively and find a way to grind out drives. They have 70 plays in 10 games that resulted in negative plays by the offense, within that they have 27 sacks. The key against WSU is mitigating the impact of those losses. Like all good defensive teams it is more about 1st down than 3rd, and what teams do on first helps on 3rd. UM has to get ahead of the sticks. Not all the time, but some of the time.

    2. When you face teams that control exposure (pace of play) like WSU does, the answer at least stylistically is to increase pace of play. Weber wears on you offensively and it limits touches for your offense. Montana likely needs to reach 75 or 80 plays on Saturday. Montana can play with pace and be effective. The key will be early versus late and how many snaps Montana can get in the first half.

    3. Weber isn’t as good in the secondary as they were two years ago, but they are as good up front. They haven’t given up 100 yards rushing in five or six weeks. This is a candidate game for horizontal will get you vertical. The TE and slot receivers is how this Montana team can differentiate itself from others. In t that SS game, UM got impatient and went away from a concept that would tax SS. The vertical shots aren’t likely to be there unless they can find a way to slow WSU up front. Getting into a protracted battle with WSU front 7 is a battle that I like to fight. I think finding a way for the LB’s to defend in their pass drops. UM seems to be averse to the screen game in the middle of the field, and if you take a cue from the game film then I think they use JLM and their slot guys to work the WSU front 7. If Akem plays (no guarantee) he and Toure pose the time of defensive threat over the top that you’ll have to adjust to that I think WSU has to deal with schematically. So really this comes down to a hedge, is Montana’s ability to pass pro better than WSU ability to cover? I think you limit WSU ability to bring pressure by attacking horizontally and then eventually that’ll get you your vertical shots.

    Defensively:
    1. The UM defense has been enigmatic. They pounded UI with impunity from the second quarter on, but it is highly unlikely they are going to get shots like that against a much more disciplined offensive team in Weber State. Montana is the second best rush defense in the conference, but that is partly due to the fact that only one team has faced more pass attempts than Montana. Josh Davis has had a quietly effective season running the ball, and Weber State has three guys averaging more than 35 yards a game on the ground. Their three backs average 34 carries a game (Davis and Smith split carries). The key is to make WSU a passing team and force those three RB’s to be check downs in the pass game. Montana is probably more up to task to that with their front seven than most.

    2. Play WSU in base. Worst case scenario for the Griz is if they have to win by committing 8 guys to the box to win. One of the reasons the 3-3-5 is so effective as a run defense is that you are essentially a 3-5. The risk however is that you end up having to play more cover 1 and cover 3 which comparative to what the Griz have done this year, it is a supremely risky proposition considering the big plays they have conceded up the middle. Sandry, Hauck and Robertson are better secondary run support than most safeties and their weakness comes in coverage not run. Being able to vary looks but staying in a 2ish high look with that trio bouncing in and out of primary run support will go a long way in helping UM stay over the top of WSU play action game.

    3. Take some chances up front. If you just run-fit WSU has the size and scheme that they'll bulldoze you all day. In recent weeks it is the athletic ability and the depth that has shone through. They can show different looks and do different things (zone blitz! Gubner) and if you want to create some uncertainty upfront, using that depth and athletic ability is probably the most ideal way. Weber State is not as dynamic in their offensive scheme, that some of what I thought would be true for Sacramento State might be more true against Weber. I think you can risk putting a Ryder Rice or a Gubner into pass drops to flood a run. This is the type of Game that Hauck, Lewis, and Olson were made for. If the DL can find a way to disrupt, those three can reek havoc in the backfield a bit.

    To get a win:
    1. Play clean. When UM last went to Ogden, they weren't outplayed. They committed way too many mistakes early on both sides. In the second half it was clear UM might have had the better team, but the early game errors killed them. They can't play how they did against PSU and UI either. They don't have to be perfect but they do have to avoid handing the ball over on turnovers and giving up big plays on missed assignments.

    2. I am a big believer but they have to try to get to 80 plays on offense. That is likely the upper limit of where Montana likely gets. If there was a game where they play at pace the whole game, it would be this one. I just don't think you can slug it out with them and you have to give your self extra chances. I think UM will be doing well if they can get to 70 but if UM gets to 80 plays they'll win. WSU has only three games all year (two were FBS) that their opposition got over 70 snaps on offense. As a side note, if Montana can get to 28, I feel like they have a good chance to win.

    3. I generally avoid turnover assessments, but if there is a game where UM has to be even or positive in the turnover category it would be this one. They can’t give away possessions in what could be a possession limited game. This is obviously connected to number #1, but WSU is just too good defensively to hand them extra possessions on offense.


    I don’t think it is out of the norm to suggest Montana wins this. I do think this might be in some ways an easier matchup for the Grizzly defense than Sac State, but the offense is going to have a long road on Saturday. Like I said if the Griz can find a way to 28, I think they have a real good chance in winning. The game probably trends in the low 20’s, but the first to 28 probably wins it.

  • #2
    Listened to the coaches show tonight. One thing that stuck out was kids like Mamula at 19 playing against a dude back from his mission pushing 25. What are your folks thoughts?

    Comment


    • #3
      Mittens,

      That has been a deal for most Utah schools with heavy LDS populations for going on decades now. I remember back in my informative years watching Grizzly basketball and they played WSU who had Jimmy Degraffenreid who might have have been 40 when he graduated. In any case Hauck and the rest of the conference is aware and it is just part of the game. UM could do that if they wanted to recruit LDS kids heavily, and secondarily age, talent and maturity are related. If you aren’t very good and go away for two years and then return, it isn’t going to push the dial that much.

      The bigger story is how well Hill and his staff recruits Utah, which is in especially in the SLC metro area, football hotbed. having coached in camps against some of those schools, there is an abundance of D1 talent there. Helps that WSU and their programs are seen as LDS friendly, because not all are and for some kids find in the recruitment process who intend to go on missions that a lot of D1 schools are pretty cold or off-put to that choice.

      Comment


      • #4
        Some things to watch for tomorrow.

        1. No Sammy Akem, he tore a tendon in his foot and had surgery this week and is done for the year. He didnt break his foot.
        2. Garret Graves will play a ton tomorrow at WR.
        3. Keelan White will also play a lot at WR tomorrow. We got this kid because Dave Dickenson played with his dad in Calgary, Pease is very high on this kid at WR and he may be the most talented WR Griz have had in a very very long time.
        4. McGourin if healthy throughout his career will be the best DL that ever played at Montana. Mark it down.

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