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Picking a QB — it’s so 2003

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | August 31, 2023 12:00 AM

That the Montana Grizzlies haven’t decided on a quarterback might seem news to some, as the squad prepares to open their season against Butler at noon Saturday.

C’mon, choosing a QB is so 2003.

Take Montana State: For all the magic Touchdown Tommy Mellott possesses, the Bobcats don’t seem to have decided on a QB, not with Sean Chambers being such a weapon.

Sacramento State made hay the last two seasons rotating two quarterbacks, so if the Griz have Central Arkansas transfer Clifton McDowell and Boise State transfer Sam Vidlak listed with an -OR- between them, that shouldn’t raise many eyebrows.

Bobby Hauck got to the point quickly in the first press conference of his 12th season at UM.

“I know that you’re going to ask me about the quarterback deal, so I’ll just get to that,” he said Monday. “We have quarterbacks that we like that are competing to be our starter. I know you guys are looking for an end to that, or a conclusion to that, but there’s just not going to be an end to that, first game.

“You all tend to make assumptions that whoever we decide starts the first game, that’s the end of it, and that’s not the end of it. It’s really just the beginning.”

Hauck went on to say the players themselves — McDowell is more of the dual-threat QB colleges prefer in the Age of the RPO, while the ball just comes out of Vidlak’s hand differently — will decide who takes over.

Someone with a grasp of history will nod, recalling the 2009 season where Oregon transfer Justin Roper came in and shared starts with holdover quarterback Andrew Selle. Eventually, just as I assumed after a couple games, Selle became the starter.

One team that has decided on its starter is Butler, the Indiana school that plays in the Pioneer Football League. Senior Bret Bushka’s alliterative name brings to mind Saturday Night Live legend Bill Brasky.

“Their quarterback, Bushka, is terrific,” Hauck said. “He’s keeping Ronnie (Bradford) and our defensive coaches up at night. He just does a lot of really good things. He makes plays in both the run and the pass game, which makes it very difficult. He just doesn’t take losses.”

He might have added, “He once punched a hole in a cow just so he could see who was coming up the road,” but that’s not how these press conferences usually go.

The Griz have played three teams from the Pioneer, which like the Ivy League has “grants-in-aid” rather than athletic scholarships. Things have gone swimmingly: Montana’s 3-0 mark includes a 52-14 win over San Diego in a snowy 2014 FCS playoff game.

The Bulldogs, though, have Bushka, a left-handed Walter Payton Award candidate and the PFL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year. He’s played in 26 games for the Bulldogs, and counting.

That could make up some perceived difference in talent between Butler and the Griz. McDowell is on his fourth school, and Vidlak, who began his career at Oregon State, is on his third. One of them will make his first Division I start, under “new” offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

“I thought that the way our offense evolved through training camp was exciting to watch,” Hauck said. “It was a lot of fun. It was fun to watch a lot of young guys come along, fun to watch the quarterback battle.”

Saturday the real fun begins.

Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 758-4463 or fneighbor@dailyinterlake.com.