Idaho Vandals head coach Jason Eck holds up the Little Brown Stein after the Vandals defeat the Griz during the Big Sky Conference football game between the Griz and Idaho at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022.
Source: Idaho Athletics
FCS

Are the Montana Griz in Trouble After Losing to Idaho?

Could there be trouble in Missoula after the #3 Grizzlies were stunned by Idaho, returning the Little Brown Stein back to Moscow for the first time since 1999.

Ben Schleiger
Ben Schleiger

After the University of Idaho Vandals toppled the #3 University of Montana Grizzlies, should Missoulans be worried about their team? Yes, Griz fans need to have a healthy dose of worry and concern as the final five games will yield the top three toughest opponents left in the Big Sky Conference (BSC) and three of the current FCS top five teams. The next two weeks will include road games at #2 Sacramento State and #5 Weber State with the final game of the season being The Brawl of the Wild against in-state rival #3 Montana State.

Idaho came into Missoula and gave the Griz fits all over the field. While the Griz were able to force a long interception return they gave up two interceptions of their own, a bobbled punt for a safety, and missing an extra point on their first touchdown. Where Montana faltered Idaho showed consistency and determination as they dominated the time of possession, offensive plays, first downs, and passing accuracy. This consistency came in clutch for the Vandals as Lucas Johnson panicked in the fourth quarter with two uncharacteristic interceptions. The Griz battled back to lose by eight, but to Missoulans this felt like a million as the stands were already emptying at the two-minute mark. This was Jason Eck’s first win in the Little Brown Stein Rivalry where the stein will be going back to the University of Idaho for the first time in 23 years.

Montana is 2-2 against Sacramento State since 2016 with both losses being the most recent meetings with the Hornets. In 2019 then #15 Sacramento State won in Sacramento 49-22 and in 2021 lost 28-21 to Sacramento State at home. This is an incredibly historic season for the Hornets as they pick up their highest rankings in school history as #2/3 in the National FCS Polls. Only a month ago the Hornets also scored their most points in an FBS victory in school history with their 41-10 win over Colorado State. Sacramento State plays to dismantle and tire teams out as the #3 rushing offense, #4 in first downs, and #5 in third-down conversion percentage.

Montana is 1-3 against Weber State since 2015 with the most recent game a heart-breaking loss in the 2019 playoffs 17-10. The Griz were able to win earlier in that season against the Wildcats 35-16, but the second meeting proved fatal for Montana’s title run. Previous to that Wildcats had the Griz’s number again on the road and at home. Weber State is proving themselves to be a fierce competitor as they are 6-0 (3-0 conf.) with a huge FBS win over Utah State 35-7. The Wildcats are a scary three phase type team as they are #14 rushing offense, #2 interceptions forced, #10 in redzone defense, and #3 in kickoff return yards.

Montana is 2-4 against Montana State since 2015 with the most recent game a 29-10 win at home, but the previous four games were straight losses. The Brawl of the Wild is one of the most ferocious and heated rivalries. Montana and Montana State absolutely tear themselves apart during this game more so than many other rivals do. Montana State is 6-0 against FCS opponents with a 4-0 conference record and one loss to receiving votes FBS Oregon State. Despite injuries and setbacks, the Bobcats are still performing at a high level on all sides of the ball with the best kickoff return average (31.44 yards), #7 in interceptions, and #2 in rushing offense with the nation’s leader in rushing touchdowns.

The next five weeks will be a tough stretch with these three tough competitors currently in the FCS top five rankings. Recently, this class of the Griz do not have a winning record against any of these tough opponents. Montana will need to put this week to forget behind them and revert back to their winning ways of the past five previous weeks. Lucas Johnson and Justin Ford need to get the Griz into a winning mindset again so their winter hibernation does not begin before the playoffs.

Ben Schleiger

My name is Ben Schleiger and I’m your representative for the Big Sky Conference. I have done work for multiple newspapers and sports blogs including The Johnstown Breeze, The College Sports Journal, The University of Northern Colorado Mirror, and Mile High Maniac. I am a proud alumnus of the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Political Science. In my free time, I like watching sports, playing video games, and trying new foods.