Things are going pretty good for the Grizzlies on offense right now. They average nearly 40 points per game, and quarterback Jordan Johnson is throwing touchdown passes left and right without turning the ball over.
But coach Mick Delaney knows the tide must turn on defense if the Griz are to get where they want to go. And he said as much on Tuesday:
“We’re way too inconsistent on defense, and we have to be better if want to accomplish our goals. We need to be better in coverage and put more pressure on the quarterback with our four-man rush. You can’t blitz all the time in order to get pressure. Our tackling was horrible against Eastern Washington, but it wasn’t that bad (against Sac State). We just need to be more consistent and be able to cover whether we’re in man or zone, and put pressure on the QB so he doesn’t have time to pick us apart.”
Here's a look at Montana's defensive statistics in the past two weeks against Eastern Washington and Sacramento State:
|Opponent||Rush yards||Pass yards||Total yards||Total TDs||Result|
|E. Washington||83||457||540||6||L, 42-37|
|at Sac State||168||412||580||6||W, 51-48|
Broken down, the Grizzlies have given up averages of 560 total yards and 46.5 points in their past two games. Yikes. Granted, they were going up against two pretty dynamic QBs in Eastern's Vernon Adams and Sac's Garrett Safron, who both had career days. Montana's saving grace last week at Sacramento State was both efficiency on offense (they put up 470 total yards and averaged 7.0 yards per play) and takeaways (UM stole the ball three times).
Safety Matt Hermanson and defensive end Zack Wagenmann each forced two fumbles. Hermanson, who played his best game of the year, ripped the ball from running back Ezekiel Graham after delivering a big hit, which killed a Hornets drive inside the red zone early in the first quarter. It proved crucial.
Second-year coordinator Ty Gregorak explained to The Missoulian the urgent mindset surrounding Montana's defense and what it must do fix its issues in advance of the game against an improved South Dakota team Saturday. Said Gregorak:
“What’s frustrating and maddening is that one series we can call the defense and execute it to perfection. And then the next series, or two series later, we can call the exact same call and one missed tackle here or a wrong fit there and it’s a 35-yard touchdown.
“If you look at a lot of the big plays, there’s guys close. We need to make plays. I’ll never blame someone that plays on this defense. I blame myself first and foremost. I need to do a better job. We need to constantly emphasize tackling. They’ve got to go finish tackles and run through ball carriers as opposed to reaching and grabbing. Take that extra step.
“I can promise you we will work our butts off to try to get this thing right. I expect our team to get better this week. I really do. I know the defense is ticked. We’re definitely frustrated and disappointed. This time of the year we should be playing our best football and we’re not."