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Versus past championship games, layoff beneficial as Montana turns attention to SDSU

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Posted at 7:06 PM, Dec 19, 2023

MISSOULA — The countdown to Frisco is officially on as the No. 2-seeded Montana Grizzlies prepare to meet the No. 1 seed South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the FCS national championship on Jan. 7 in Texas.

It's an opportunity Griz fans have waited a long time to return to, and something this year's Grizzly squad is more than happy to be achieving.

"Well, you know, I enjoy it. I enjoy Montana and Montanans, I say it a lot," UM head coach Bobby Hauck said during media availability on Tuesday. "But I really enjoy, from little kids to elderly folks, with big smiles on their faces and tears streaming down their cheeks. I mean, it's important to them, and it's important to me."

Fans are still reveling in Montana's all-time classic 31-29 double-overtime win over North Dakota State on Saturday in Missoula, with a jubilant scene afterward that will live on forever.

But since, the Griz got back to work with practices Monday and Tuesday to get their minds right and turn their attention toward Frisco.

"I think satisfaction will come more when you have time to reflect," Hauck said. "We're working, and there will be some time whether it's on the river or at home with feet up on the couch, but there will be some time to reflect on that.

"We've got a lot of good things going and we've got a big game to play and I'm thrilled to be a part of it."

As opposed to the past three national titles Hauck and his Griz teams played in 2004, 2008 and 2009, the three-week gap between the semifinal and national championship is a positive in his eyes.

In the past, the championship was played the week immediately after the semifinal, which often led to logistical and preparation nightmares, according to Hauck.

"I shared with our team this morning that, you know, back when we'd done this before, we'd be having our Wednesday practice, getting lunch and getting on a plane and getting ready to go play on Friday," Hauck explained. "And they looked at me like that was the craziest thing they'd ever heard. So this is like a bowl prep. We have a bunch of guys on staff that have done a lot of that. So that's what it is. It'll be good preparation for us."

Hauck said the Grizzlies get a break for a week for the holidays as they return home to spend time with family before fully locking back in on the title run early next week.

And the giving season even shined through during his meeting with the media, as Hauck had a little surprise in store by canceling UM's pursuit drill, with which the defense usually kicks off each practice.

When he announced it in the middle of his interview, a raucous roar from the players soon followed.

"Hey, you know what! Merry Christmas, no pursuit!" Hauck shouted. "These guys are easy to please, you ask about embracing it, we just had a celebration because we skipped pursuit drill one day this year."

He added with a laugh, "We won't skip the tackling drills."