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Grizzly Football: Montana (9-2, 6-1) @ Montana State (8-3, 5-2) Game Thread

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  • Grizzly Football: Montana (9-2, 6-1) @ Montana State (8-3, 5-2) Game Thread

    Here we are. The mother of all battles. The big kahuna. All cliche's on deck.

    I have two blogs in the hopper that just need a couple tidying touches before I publish them...

    Story lines:

    The biggest story-line for this game is all about Montana. I apologize to the Cats here but there is a sense that after the Cats escaped the past 3 games with victories, there is an albeit different vibe going into Saturday's game in Bozeman. There are a greater number of questions regarding the Cats on Saturday than there are with the Griz respective to how each other matches up. Yet this game is going to be a lot more about intangibles, considering the mental state of each program after last three years.

    Clearly as the rivalry goes, Montana State has all the momentum. The last four weeks? Montana has everything going in the right direction. UM survived what was on paper the conferences most difficult schedule, and besides the clunker they laid in Sacramento a month ago, this is a program that has passed every conceivable test.

    Montana since Sacramento State has outscored Big Sky opponents 149-73 and averages out to 19 points a game margin. Most emphatically was last weeks victory over Weber State, who had done just about everything in the Bobby Hauck playbook, and did so without breaking a sweat.

    What are the storylines for the week?

    1. Headspace: Does Choate have a mindblock on Grizzly football? What type of voodoo dolls have been used to exorcise the demons of the past three years from the Grizzly perspective? All signs seem to point to a different vibe inside the Grizzly locker room. The question is what happens when things go bad on Saturday. The last three years, despite out playing the Cats for large percentages of each game, the Griz couldn't recover from negative events.

    2. Andersen: In the past two outings, the Dillon product had an out-sized impact on the game. Last year he was the man, but a person wonders precisely where, how and what Andersen can provide on Saturday the type of dimension he provided the past two years. The problem is partly an offensive issue and the second part is health. He didn't look good for parts of the first half against Davis and the rumors are he is playing with a dinged shoulder. He's more important defensively because of the emergence of Jonsen and their three-headed monster at running back.

    3. Tempo: Again Montana State sees league low snaps defensively and Montana is among the fast playing offenses. In the last 3 victories for MSU, they have won the tempo game. They have made this an 8 or 9 possession game each, played in the low 60's offensive snap counts. Montana can win at both, MSU likely won't and doesn't want to play with that type of pace. The weather isn't likely to be a true hindrance, more likely trending to a classical late fall Montana day in Bozeman, but if this game slogs down that clearly plays in MSU pass-averse offensive scheme.

    What does Montana need to do offensively?

    1. This stands to be a rough run game week. MSU is far better against the run, maybe not WSU good, but their skill is in causing disruption at the line scrimmage. MSU is among the league leaders in TFL's and sacks, and Bryce Sterk poses a significant challenge for the Griz offense on Saturday. MSU has struggled a bit in defending spread looks and give up some big plays when asked to defend in space. MSU is as tough and stout in the front 7 as they have been the last couple of years, and it is imperative UM finds a way to get JLM involved early.

    2. Get Toure the ball. MSU has done an excellent job in mitigating Montana's advantage on the perimeter over the past three years. The big reason was that MSU was so much better up front, and I don't think that is the case this year. Both UND and Sac State have had better than average offensive lines. Montanas is trending in that direction, but still has given up 26 sacks on the season. MSU is going to bring crap tons of pressure in the same way Sac State did. Getting Toure the ball consistently is going to be huge in keeping MSU in base.

    3. Stay clean. Stay ahead of the sticks. Last couple of years it has been about self-inflicted wounds on the offense. Turnovers. Penalities. Mistakes. Play clean. Don't have to be perfect, but they do have to be much, much better than they were the past two years.

    What does Montana need to defensively.
    1. MSU is a perplexing offense. They are essentially what they were the past two years. MSU beats teams because of how varied they are in the run game. Pretty sure (sarcastically) MSU runs every run scheme known to man. For Montana to win, they need to make MSU play the full 80. MSU depends highly on big run plays including three plays of 70 yards or more. Montana will take it if every MSU drive runs 10-15 plays. The sense is that MSU will run the ball 60 times on Saturday. MSU just doesn't throw the ball well enough to convert enough 3rd downs.

    2. Force Rovig into poor leverage pass downs. I will write about this in the blog, but Rovig has to be what has he has been for the conference season. Keep things in front, force him into making the quick and safe read. I honestly don't know if MSU is willing to open vertically on 1st down, but their philosophy is to get Jonsen and Kassis the ball in space. They have a lot of negative plays on first down in the pass game.

    3. MSU is absolutely putrid in 3rd and long. They don't have enough receiving depth, Jonsen is switched from QB to WR and Rovig comes back in. MSU is likely going to be a two-for deal on third down a bunch. Get enough on 3rd through the run game, they'll go for it on fourth. MSU hasn't thrown the ball more than 30 times in conference play. I won't expect them to throw more than that here, which means keeping MSU at down and long. They are going to get yards on the ground, but where MSU struggles is when they are at or behind the sticks on first down.

    A Griz win:

    1. Goes without saying that there is more at stake than just a win, but as it was the last two years there was a tightness and pensiveness that permeated through the Grizzly sideline and staff. As I noted at the outside, this BotW probably has more emotional meaning to the UM and that I think can be a positive. That being said when things don’t go well, and they won’t, it is essential that the verve that has carried the UM football team through the year remain evident. MSU isn't going to go away, I think last year proved that, and it is essential that if UM has the opportunity to show no mercy.

    2. I said it last week that pace of play is essential. MSU has struggled when being forced to play at pace, and if the UM gets to 75 plays for the game that would be ideal. The Cat-Griz game is always a bit more of a grinder, slower game, so if the UM gets to the upper 60’s or lower 70’s Hauck and company have to feel good about the outcome.

    ​​​​​​​3. To that end getting MSU in 3rd and long is going to be a key element in winning on Saturday. I just don't think that 3 and medium aren't just going to be a methodology to go for on fourth. Limiting Montana's touches has been the key ingredient the past couple of years. Montana's run defense was up to the task last Saturday, but this might be a more formidable task but entirely doable. If Rovig beats UM with his arm, tip your cap and call it a day.

    I think if Montana gets to 30 points, they win this game going away. MSU isn't as good defensively as Weber was, but they will bring a lot more heat than WSU did, that being said there are going to opportunities for the WR to get 1v1 matchups. MSU likely gets their 175-200 yards of rushing, but I think the UM is better suited to handle MSU's multi-headed rushing attack.


  • #2
    Here is a blog on how one might stop the run game from MSU. Not an easy task, but I think UM has the ability to do so.

    Per usual. Thanks for reading.


    • #3
      Sucks Anderson isn't playing now they have a built in excuse.


      • #4
        Not necessary. Griz stunk it up. Lost in all phases including being outcoached. Sneed looks hobbled. Receivers can't catch. Lines dominated and special teams had one decent play and nothing else. Without Akem, we couldn't get separation. Bright spot was Knight but when down so early it didn't matter. He ran hard.