MISSOULA — Last Saturday’s loss to Eastern Washington was a bitter pill to swallow for the Montana Grizzlies. But now, all of that’s in the past as they move forward to this Saturday’s game against Dixie State, a program UM has never seen before.
"It was fun playing an explosive offense like that," UM cornerback Omar Hicks Onu said. "It was definitely the best offense we’ve seen this season. I think there’s a lot we could learn from in that game and a lot we can grow from in that game. And to be honest, we’re just excited for the next game and just keep getting better and go 1-0 on the week."
That target is now Dixie State, a newly-minted FCS program.
The Trailblazers moved up from the NCAA Division II level to the FCS in July 2020, and played a five-game spring schedule earlier this year to kick off its new life in the FCS.
In its first fall season at this level, Dixie State is 0-4 to begin the year, with losses to other Big Sky schools in Weber State (41-3), UC Davis (60-27) and Sac State (19-7). The Trailblazers also most recently lost to No. 2 South Dakota State, 55-7.
"They’ve had a really tough schedule, played some really good teams, so we got to be ready to go," wide receiver Mitch Roberts said. "Offensively, defensively and special teams so all three phases put together and play a good game. Should be exciting."
One of the biggest storylines coming out of UM's loss to EWU is health.
The Grizzlies sustained a few injuries against the Eagles, including one to quarterback Cam Humphrey in the final seconds of the game.
Montana declined to address any injuries during Monday’s press conference, so the status of Humphrey, wide receiver Gabe Sulser and others will be found out during warmups before the game Saturday. Sulser left Saturday's game in the second quarter due to an apparent leg injury while Humphrey's also appeared to be a leg injury.
Other players to monitor are safety Gavin Robertson, who has missed the last two games, while defensive end Joe Babros exited the Cal Poly game early and has not played since.
Griz coach Bobby Hauck said Montana's focus is now putting Saturday's loss completely in the past.
"I mean you got to get back to work and not let anybody beat you twice," Hauck said. "That’s probably the first thing and I mean everything’s still out there. Seasons are long, it’s early in the year. We just need to take care of what’s in front of us which is play this week. There’s always things to fix win or lose and we got to go fix them."
"It’s just the complete opposite of (Washington)," added Dylan Cook. "We couldn’t ride that UW win very long, we can’t ride this Eastern Washington loss very long. We just got to get back on the saddle and look forward to the next opponent."