MISSOULA — At long last, there's just one more sleep until college football is back in Missoula.
All of the talk is in the past, and preseason expectations heaped on the Montana Grizzlies will be put to the test starting on Saturday when Northwestern State visits Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. on a day where temperatures are supposed to reach the upper 90s.
Coming out of fall camp, Griz coach Bobby Hauck likes what he sees from his squad.
"I thought the work that we got done in our fall practice session was good," Hauck said at his Monday press conference. "I thought the players were really tuned in and that makes it good, so we're into game week now, and Saturday we get to find out if our work was good and we're ready to play well."
Northwestern State, a team located in Louisiana in the Southland Conference, went 3-8 last year, and hasn't had a winning season since 2008.
Still, with heavy turnover both on the coaching staff and with player personnel, Hauck said this game is difficult to prepare for.
"The first week's always a little unnerving just because you don't know your own team and then when you add the uncertainty of the prep for these guys where we just don't know what we're going to get," Hauck said. "There's a lot of uncertainty and we'll have to go into the game with kind of a basic gameplan and try to work our way out of it."
The depth chart was released on Tuesday, with San Diego State transfer Lucas Johnson set to make his debut as Montana's starting quarterback. Also on Thursday, the Grizzlies named Helena native Marcus Welnel as the recipient of the legacy No. 37 jersey. Welnel was picked to wear the jersey by Townsend native Jace Lewis, but throughout fall camp had been wearing his usual No. 10 jersey while Hauck and UM had declined to comment on the delay.
Montana enters as the preseason pick to win the Big Sky Conference, and the Grizzlies are ranked at No. 3 in the Stats Perform FCS poll with a number of players reeling in preseason accolades.
But all of that is thrown out on Saturday when the season officially begins, and the Grizzlies kick off their first of 11 games to open the 2022 season.
"I'm a pretty firm believer that effort can get you out of some bad situations. If you've got good players who play really hard you have a chance to win games no matter what you do X's and O's wise so hopefully we're ready to go and healthy and can go out and put a good effort out there."