MISSOULA – Bobby Hauck often says his team will only be judged by wins and losses. If that’s the case, the Montana Grizzlies get a big thumbs up for the opener.
Montana’s win over Northern Iowa also showed the Griz could have a dominant defense this season. UM did not allow a single first down in the first quarter, and the Panthers gained only 47 yards in the first half. UM also forced four fumbles, grabbed an interception, and recorded a couple of sacks.
UNI did start clicking with 23 points in the second half, but the Griz still forced a big, physical team to gain only 2.6 yards per rush and bench its returning starting quarterback, with a defense often using three safeties and plenty of emotion.
“It’s not going to be as dominating as it was in the first half all of the time. It’s just not. That was pretty spectacular from a defensive standpoint,” said an impressed Hauck. “Mostly it was the third downs in the second half. We were pretty good on first and second down.”
“We didn’t know exactly what to expect from Northern Iowa offensively, but the good thing was they didn’t know exactly what to expect from us, either,” said senior defensive lineman Jesse Sims. “Guys getting their first starts and stuff. I feel like everybody played with a ton of energy, just like we’ve been trying to do in practice every day, so it was awesome to see.”
Dante Olson, a first-time starter at linebacker, became the Big Sky Conference defensive player of the week after collecting 13 tackles, a sack and an interception. Reid Miller, a senior transfer safety from Arkansas, ranked second on the team with nine tackles. Defensive ends Reggie Tilleman (also making his first start) and Sims each added eight tackles. Justin Calhoun showed signs of becoming a shutdown cornerback even though he hasn’t played the position since high school. The converted receiver broke up three passes and also forced a fumble on a sack. Freshman Robby Hauck, the coach’s son, filled from his free safety position to make seven tackles. Sophomore linebacker Jace Lewis, another first-time starter, wrapped up six tackles.
This week, the Grizzlies try to shut down a brand-new opponent. Montana takes on Drake from the Pioneer Football Conference for the first time. The teams will kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.