MISSOULA – Some teams just don’t match up well with others. Cal Poly got crushed in its Big Sky Conference3 opener at Eastern Washington, but the Mustangs always seem to play Montana tough. And the Grizzlies expect the same when they head to San Luis Obispo, Cali. this weekend.
Preparing for Cal Poly is always a challenge, because of its old-school triple-option offense. UM coach Bobby Hauck knows his players don’t grow up defending the option, so it’s a lot to teach in one week of practice.
Cal Poly (1-3 overall) ranks second in the Big Sky with 267 yards rushing per game and dead last with only 89.5 passing yards per game. The Mustangs want to grind the ball down the field with long drives and lead the conference in time of possession. Their star senior, fullback Joe Protheroe, is a big reason for the success on the ground.
Hauck admits it’s an over-used cliche to say you have to stop the fullback dive against an option offense, but with Protheroe averaging more than 130 yards per game, mostly on quick hitters right up the middle, it’s also a necessity.
“In regard to these guys, you have to stop that because that’s probably their best player,” said Hauck about the dive play to Protheroe. “We have a high regard for him and his abilities. We have to try and get a handle on him. People the last few years have not stopped him a lot of the time.”
“Just from previous years I know it’s going to be a tough, physical game the entire game,” added Griz linebacker Josh Buss. “As a defensive player that’s what you should want, though, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Cal Poly has won the past three games against Montana, taking the past two by a single point (42-41 in 2016, and 20-19 in 2015). But the Grizzlies will be heavy favorites when they take the field at 5 p.m. (MT) Saturday.