MISSOULA – The Montana Grizzlies didn’t bite off an easy non-conference schedule this year, but they’re one win away from entering Big Sky Conference play 3-0.
Montana heads out on the road for the first time to face an opponent hungry for a win. Western Illinois has started 0-2 after falling in Bozeman to Montana State by three points and at FBS Illinois by 20, although the Leathernecks trailed the Illini by just 10 entering the fourth quarter.
The Leathernecks made the first round of the playoffs a year ago, losing to Big Sky champ Weber State, 21-19.
The Griz defense has shut down its first two opponents, but Western Illinois will test UM with a more explosive attack, led by versatile running back Steve McShane and four-year starting quarterback Sean McGuire.
“They have a good quarterback,” said Griz head coach Bobby Hauck, praising McGuire. “If you go and look, the throw he made on the post route on the opening drive against Illinois last week looked like the real deal. They have more speed, certainly on the outside. They don’t play as many heavy sets. They have some really explosive players. We knew this would be a tough one going into it looking at the schedule clear back last spring.”
Western Illinois knocked the Griz out of the playoffs in Hauck’s first season as head coach, back in 2003. The two programs have not met since.
They’ll kick off in Macomb, Ill. at 2 p.m. Saturday.