MISSOULA – Game 1 is in the books. Now Montana really has to get ready.
The Grizzlies must now prepare for a matchup with an old rival, that could be the toughest test in program history.
The season took a while to get moving, but when it did, Montana showed what it could become this season. A final score of 45-23 over Valparaiso might not leave a loud impression, but it also gave the Griz plenty of reasons for optimism.
“I feel like we played pretty well,” said head coach Bob Stitt. “We graded out very well offensively. It felt like it was a pretty solid game to start out with.”
“Everything we did, we did correct,” added slot receiver Jerry Louie-McGee, who had nine receptions for 159 yards and a pair of touchdowns versus Valpo. “Obviously after games there is things you can do better, but it was just the first game, and we can only progress from here.”
Even a ton of progression might not be enough this week.
The Grizzlies take on a challenge unlike anything they’ve faced. Montana travels to Washington, its first Power 5 Conference opponent since 2011, and the seventh-ranked Huskies, who made it to the College Football Playoff last season, are the highest-ranked opponent for UM in modern history.
But the maroon and silver insist they won’t be intimidated in Seattle.
“We embrace challenges like this,” said senior cornerback Ryan McKinley. “We didn’t come to Montana to not play against the best competition week in and week out.”
“It’s exciting to get this opportunity to play in front of 70,000 people,” admitted Louie-McGee, “but in reality, football is football. We’re going to go and play our game.”
“We’ve got to use this game to get better,” said Stitt. “You can’t miss an opportunity for your football team to get better schematically and mentally. And to go against the best, that can’t do anything but help us.”
These two teams last met in 1951, when they were both members of the Pacific Coast Conference. The Griz have only beaten the Huskies once in 18 tries, way back in 1920, and it will take an incredible effort to take them down this weekend. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Mountain Time Saturday night.