MISSOULA — On Monday, the Montana Grizzlies began their Week 12 preparation for what could prove to be their most important game since head coach Bobby Hauck has been back at the helm.
The No. 5 Griz will be hosting the No. 3 team in the nation in the Weber State Wildcats. While the focus is usually on offensive or defensive weapons affecting the game, the special teams could play a key role in Saturday’s contest.
Montana returners Malik Flowers and Jerry Louie-McGee have both taken kicks back already this season. Flowers has taken 21 kickoff returns for a total of 564 yards and a 100-yard touchdown return. Louie-McGee, UM's career catches leader, is also lethal on punts returns. In 2019 he has 14 returns for 240 yards. He took a 74-yard punt to the house against North Alabama and racked up a total of 150 return yards in the game on returns alone.
However, Weber State features return man Rashid Shaheed, who Hauck said was one of the best athletes in the entire league.
"Theirs should be called punt offense as much as they fake it and run it as well. I think Rashid Shaheed could be the most explosive player in FCS football. We've got our hands full with him. You have to tackle him," Hauck said. "I watch the games on TV and you hear people say, 'Oh, I can't believe they are kicking to him.’ Punters aren't trained to kick it out of bounds, and kickoff guys, I guess you can just kind of nudge onside ... and give them the ball at the 40 every time. I mean, you just have to tackle him."
In Shaheed's career at Weber State, he's had 55 kick return attempts for a total of 1,617 yards and four scores. So far in 2019 he hasn't taken one to the house, but he is warming up with a 47-yard return against Southern Utah and a 35-yard return against North Dakota last week.
Weber State (8-2 overall, 6-0 Big Sky Conference) takes on Montana (8-2, 5-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.