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Big Sky notes: Griz, young QB get well in Idaho

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | October 26, 2021 10:56 PM

The Montana Grizzlies looked like a new team in their 34-14 win at Idaho Saturday, at least on offense, though Bobby Hauck deflected any thought that Kris Brown’s 256 passing yards and deep strikes were the products of better game planning.

“It was just a matter of running our offense,” said Hauck, a week after Brown threw mostly underneath routes in a home loss to Sacramento State. “The biggest difference this week as opposed to the previous weeks is we didn’t turn it over.”

The Griz are 5-2 and holding steady at No. 11 in the Football Championship Division polls, and have what appears to be a break in the schedule: A home game against 1-7 Southern Utah Saturday and then road games at 3-5 Northern Colorado and 3-4 Northern Arizona.

First things first. Southern Utah had developed a defensive reputation through the years, though this fall the Thunderbirds have surrendered 308 points.

“They’re going to man you some,” Hauck said at UM’s weekly press conference. “It really starts with man coverage. You have to win against man and they do a good job of that.

“I like their receivers. They’re the best players on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, I think the best players are the guys up front, and maybe that’s why they’ve shown a tendency to rely on man coverage — because their guys can get there.”

The Griz won those man-to-man battles against Idaho, with Mitch Roberts hauling in seven passes for a career-best 145 yards, including a 70-yard catch and run.

“Mainly it was getting into a rhythm,” Roberts said Monday. “And the quarterbacks making big plays and running the ball well. (Brown) has done a great job for us. You can tell his confidence is up, especially after last week. He’s starting to make some big-time throws.”

That’s not his only skill. Brown has a team-high five rushing touchdowns. While it’s true injuries have spread the carries out to six different Griz running backs, the freshman QB has shown some wheels.

The win was UM’s seventh straight in the “Little Brown Stein” series, which was off and on from 1996-2018.

Nice work, Gubner

A disputed targeting call against Griz defensive lineman Alex Gubner during the Idaho game has been overturned.

Gubner was penalized and ejected for hitting the Vandals quarterback, negating a Robbie Hauck interception and putting Gubner’s status for the first half of the Southern Utah game in doubt.

Big Sky assistant commissioner Tyson Rodgers emailed the Missoulian with the news.

“Because replay was down during the second half of the Montana-Idaho football game when the called penalty in question occurred, the Big Sky Coordinator of Football Officials immediately initiated the process after the game for the play to be reviewed so it could be confirmed or overturned,” the email read. “The national coordinator of officials informed the Big Sky Coordinator of Football Officials today that the call was overturned, and the student-athlete is eligible to compete in the first half of this week’s game.”

Bearing up

Southern Utah is coming off a 17-9 home loss to Northern Colorado in which the Bears rushed for over 200 yards for the first time since playing Washington State on Sept. 7, 2017.

Quarterback Dylan McCaffrey had 100 of those rushing yards and fellow Michigan transfer Tru Wilson had 85. McCaffrey’s dad, Ed, is the Bears’ first-year coach and Saturday’s win gave them their best total since the 2017 squad 3-7. The 2016 NC squad went 6-5.

Bengals struggle

Montana State is off this week, after beating Idaho State 27-9 in Bozeman last week. The Bobcats rode 165 rushing yards from Isaiah Ifanse and a bendy defense to their fourth Big Sky win.

How bendy? Idaho State went up and down the field for 42 minutes, piled up 23 first downs and was better than 50 percent on third downs. And lost.

“They’re a very salty scoring-zone defense,” Bengals coach Rob Phenicie told the Idaho State Journal. “They do a great job with bend but don’t break and, like I said, we have to execute when we get down into the scoring zone.”

For his part MSU coach Brent Vigen said: “We would have been in tough shape if we didn’t have (Ifanse’s) 165 yards, I know that.”

Idaho State returns home to face No. 24 Weber State, Saturday.

Formula does work

Weber State had similar stats to Idaho State with a far different result: A win over the then-No. 2 Eastern Eagles, 35-34.

Quarterback Eric Barriere rallied his team to two late touchdowns, only to see a missed PAT kick decide it.

“Would have loved to kick the extra point,” Eastern coach Aaron Best told the Spokesman-Review. “It’s something that, again, most teams take for granted … but there was a lot of stuff before that.”

Weber State ran 95 plays on offense, had six scoring drives of seven plays or more and on defense forced six Eastern punts.

That’s how it’s done, apparently. Scoring three straight touchdowns gave Weber a 35-21 lead that barely held up. The Wildcats were the last team to beat Eastern on Roos Field, in 2017 — the Eagles had won 20 straight home games.