Griz not buying into buildup of Pflugrad's return to Missoula

2013-11-13T22:18:00Z 2013-11-13T22:54:51Z Griz not buying into buildup of Pflugrad's return to MissoulaGreg Rachac The Billings Gazette

Mick Delaney was adamant. Montana’s second-year coach didn’t want to talk this week about Robin Pflugrad, the controversy surrounding his firing a year and a half ago, nor his return to Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Saturday. Said Delaney:

“Let’s keep the focus on the game. We’re playing Weber State, and we need a win.”

Everybody has been mum, but it’s a pretty big storyline. Pflugrad returns to Missoula as the offensive coordinator at Weber State, 1½ seasons since serving as the Grizzlies’ head coach before being controversially terminated in the spring of 2012.

UM president Royce Engstrom still hasn’t publicly revealed the reason(s) why he fired Pflugrad and then-athletic director Jim O’Day. Rather, Engstrom only cited the need for a “change in leadership” as his motive -- though the firings were undoubtedly facilitated by the scrutiny UM was under for the perception of its handling of sexual assault allegations, some involving athletes.

The Grizzlies eventually ended up vacating their share of the 2011 Big Sky Conference championship as part of NCAA infractions that resulted from various indiscretions during Pflugrad’s tenure.

In two seasons at UM, Pflugrad went 18-7 (.720) including an 11-3 mark in 2011and a berth in the FCS semifinals.

Most of the upperclassmen on Montana’s defense are familiar with Pflugrad’s offensive schemes because they faced it every day in practice for two seasons. By the time Pflugrad was let go in the middle of spring ball in 2012, the Grizzlies had the zone-read and spread concepts down to a T.

Here's what Griz D-lineman Caleb Kidder said Tuesday:

“They love the hurry-up. We’re all very familiar here with that offense. We’ve all gone against it all last year, then the guys previous when Pflugrad was here. We feel like we know the offense.”

Weber State, head coached by Jody Sears, has struggled on offense this season. Through 10 games, the Wildcats have league-worst averages of 15.2 points and 302.8 yards per game.

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Greg Rachac

Sportswriter for The Billings Gazette covering Montana and Montana State athletics in addition to various high school sports.

Slim Kimmel

Online sports editor for The Billings Gazette.

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