PORTLAND and MISSOULA -- Saturday's Big Sky Conference football game between the No. 8 Montana Grizzlies and Portland State Vikings at Hillsboro Stadium is big for a couple different reasons -- it's an opportunity for UM to avenge last year's 22-20 loss on then-freshman kicker Cody Williams' 52-yard field goal, but more importantly for Montana, a win over the Vikings would land the Grizzlies at 7-2 on the season, reaching the so-called magic number of victories a program needs to reach the postseason.
"You ought to be excited to play every week. You only get 12 (games) this year, 11 most years, but certainly when a team beats you the year before, they’ve got your attention, I can guarantee you that," Griz head coach Bobby Hauck said during his weekly press conference earlier in the week.
Montana owns a 30-13 lead in the all-time series with the Vikings, but PSU has actually won two of the past three, and this isn't the same Portland State program Hauck grew accustomed to dominating a decade ago. The Vikings enter the weekend with the Big Sky's third-best rushing attack and No. 4 offense in time of possession in the entire FCS.
That offense, coupled with a defense that owns the fifth-most interceptions in the nation, has Hauck's attention.
"It’s really not about who’s in there, it’s about what they’re doing," Hauck said of the Vikings. "They had a couple new wrinkles for us last year that we have to be ready for. They do a good job schematically, and they’re pretty good up front, and all of a sudden the run game is good. Their backs are good. It’s all the things they’re doing around them — quarterback read, some of the read game, they actually ran some triple-option stuff against us a year ago, which we’ll have to be prepared for."
"I think we’re definitely confident but not complacent," added UM running back Marcus Knight. "We know what we need to do. We lost to them last year, so there’s a lot of wanting to get back. They’re a good team, so we’re very focused going into this game."
Adding to the significance of Saturday's game is the opportunity for Montana to move into a tie for second place in the conference. League undefeateds Weber State and Sacramento State clash Saturday evening in California, with the loser set to fall to 4-1 in Big Sky play, the same mark Montana would be with a win in Hillsboro.
Sac State defeated the Grizzlies 49-22 two weeks ago, and UM meets Weber Nov. 16 in a game that could have serious playoff and conference championship implications.
Montana and Portland State kick off at 2 p.m. (PDT) from Hillsboro Stadium.