MISSOULA — Survive and advance is the mantra for the Montana Grizzlies after their thrilling comeback win over Southeast Missouri State over this past weekend.
But the next stop on that road might be the toughest road block of all, as the Griz (8-4) get set to take on the dynastic North Dakota State Bison (9-2) on Saturday in Fargo, North Dakota.
"The last decade they've been the gold standard, as I mentioned on Saturday, and you want to test yourself against the best and they've been the best," Griz head coach Bobby Hauck said.
By now, everyone knows NDSU's pedigree.
The Bison have dominated the FCS and been one of college football's most successful programs at any level with nine national championships since 2011, including last fall over Montana State.
It's always rinse, and repeat, and the program's success has been unrivaled in sports, while the Bison have also sent a number of players to the NFL.
Each year, physicality has stood out about NDSU, including their front lines, with Hauck highlighting their offensive line at his weekly press conference on Monday.
"I think it starts up front," Hauck said. "The offensive line is the best we've seen this year. They come off the ball hard, they get bodies on bodies, they sustain blocks, they finish. It's a good offensive line and that's where it starts."
Hauck also talked about the versatility of quarterback Cam Miller, who has shown the ability to throw it, but also run it when needed.
"He does a lot of good things," Hauck said. "They'll empty the backfield and he can deliver the ball. They've got a lot of designed quarterback runs for him. It's good stuff, so the plus-one run game is giving us some problems and we have to be ready for that."
Defensively, the Bison always rank among the tops in the FCS, with a strong pass defense guiding the group this year.
"It'll be different certainly," Hauck said. "They do some different things with their coverage rotations that make it difficult in the pass game. It'll be a challenge, they've got good players."
While the Bison will likely be without standout fullback Hunter Luepke, NDSU is known for reloading with talent all over the field.
The Griz know that, but know they have something to prove on their end as well in the second round of the playoffs.
"The way these guys play, I mean, they make it real," Hauck said. "I hope when they see us they see a tough football team too."