By Mick Holien
Saturday in Missoula marks the first opportunity for the Montana Grizzlies to show the Big Sky Conference, national pollsters and pre-season procrastinators that they are set to shed the doldrums of last season and again move to football prominence.
Picked to finish in the middle of the circuit and listed as an also-ran for the first time in years, a victory over 11th ranked FCS powerhouse and old nemesis Eastern Washington would elevate Montana into the top 25 listing but also would throw the league into even a more wide open affair than the first month has indicated.
And while most would say it is way too early to predict the matchup with the Eagles presents a must-win scenario for Montana, let me tell you losing to a title challenger on your home field early in the schedule sets a challenger on their heels while a win before the home faithful can jumpstart momentum especially facing the rigors of the road.
The injured Reese Phillips will cheer from the sideline and after the rousing support he received from his teammates when leaving the field on a stretcher last week that will provide plenty of an emotional lift.
And in facing powerhouse bigger, faster and stronger Washington last week, redshirt freshman Gresch Jensen should be anything but surprised by the Eagles but make no mistake when he clearer the tunnel, realizing he’s the guy at the helm he’ll have his share of butterflies.
It is no surprise that you want to get the Seattle area product out of the gate early and establishment of a running game as usual is of utmost importance.
But the Eags are stingy in rush defense and setting a team standard with 10 sacks in the impressive win at Fordham last week illustrates they’re not too shabby with the pass rush either.
Former Eagle All-Conference player Aaron Best is now at the EWU helm replacing Beau Baldwin who took a look at the roster in losing three quality receivers and headed out.
Stats make it appear Fordham didn’t have a running game last week and loss on their home field for the first time in 11 games even though they forced five Eagle turnovers.
Kickoff is slated for 6p.m. and what a setting..just sayin