No. 13 Montana vs. North Dakota
• The game: Noon today, Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Missoula.
• The records: UM is 6-3 (5-2 Big Sky); North Dakota is 3-6 (0-4 Great West).
• The series: UM leads 11-7-1.
• TV/Radio: CW Montana; KQBL (105.1 FM), Grizzly Sports Network.
• Scouting the Sioux: North Dakota is in its third year of transitioning from Division II to the Division I Football Championship Subdivision. The Fighting Sioux will join the Big Sky Conference as a core member beginning in the 2012-13 academic year. … Head coach Chris Mussman is 15-15 in his third season at UND. … Starting QB Jake Landry is out for the season with a knee injury. Landry suffered a torn ligament earlier in the season against Cal Poly. Since then, the Sioux have relied on backups Brent Goska and Marcus Hendrickson. … Freshman WR Greg Hardin leads the team with 38 catches for 710 yards, an average of 18.7 yards per catch. … Josh Murray is the team’s leading rusher. He averages 6.2 yards per carry. … UND employs a 3-4 defense, which is stout against the run. The Sioux hold opponents to 3.9 yards per rush, and have stopped 64 percent of their opponents’ third-down plays. … LB Dan Hendrickson leads the team and ranks seventh in the Great West with 63 tackles (47 solo). … The team has intercepted at least one pass in three of its last five games. Still, turnovers have hurt UND:. the Sioux are minus-7 in turnover margin. … UND is 0-4 on the road this year.
• Scouting the Grizzlies: Montana is coming off a bye week. … The Griz are seeking at least a share of a 13th consecutive Big Sky Conference title, as well as a berth in the FCS postseason for an 18th straight season. … QB Justin Roper is looking to rebound from a poor second half against Weber State in which he threw three interceptions. Weber State went on to win 30-21. … Roper has thrown 18 TDs versus eight INTs. He ranks third in the Big Sky in pass efficiency with a rating of 136.7. … RB Chase Reynolds is 327 yards shy of UM’s all-time rushing record. Reynolds has 629 rushing yards, but just four rushing TDs. He ran for more than 20 TDs in each of the previous two seasons. … The Grizzlies’ defense is one of the best in the Big Sky, raking second in total defense (300.1 ypg) and first in pass defense (149.6 ypg). … S Erik Stoll leads the league with five INTs, while CB Trumaine Johnson is second on the list with four. The team has picked off 12 passes total … Coach Robin Pflugrad said he expects DE Tyrone Duncan (shoulder) to play. … The Griz haven’t lost a non-conference game at home since falling to then-Division II North Dakota State in 2003. Moreover, UM has won 32 consecutive regular season home games dating back to 2005, and 22 straight overall at Washington-Grizzly since a 2007 playoff loss to Wofford.
• Stat that matters: Montana’s defense leads the Big Sky — and is ranked eighth in the FCS — in tackles for loss at more than eight per game. Individually, CB Jimmy Wilson had his first start of the season against Weber State (at free safety) and had a career-high 17 tackles. LBs Caleb McSurdy and Alex Shaw each had 16 stops last week while LB Jordan Tripp had a career-best 11 tackles (two for loss) with a fumble recovery.
• Coachspeak: “I believe the players got some rest. And that was very, very important. It was important for them to get away from the building and get away from us, and live a little bit of a regular college life for at least 48 hours or something like that. We wanted them to relax and take a little bit of a mental break. Hopefully we took advantage of it.”
“After having the bye week, this is our second season. That’s how we’ve divided it. And yeah, we’re backed up into the corner and all that stuff, but that’s kind of how our whole season’s been. So we expect and demand an excellent performance whether you’re first string or third string.”
– UM coach Robin Pflugrad
No. 11 Montana State, idle
• Last week: Freshman QB Denarius McGhee threw for 325 yards and a TD to help the Bobcats defeat Weber State 24-10 at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman. RB Orenzo Davis rushed for 114 yards, and scored on TD runs of 32 and 40 yards in the fourth quarter as MSU finished the home portion of is schedule undefeated. The Cats are 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big Sky Conference.
• Next week: Montana State travels to face archrival Montana at Washington-Grizzly Stadium for the 110th Cat-Griz game. MSU has lost the last four meetings with the Griz, but a victory would sew up at least a share of the conference title and earn the Cats the Big Sky’s automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
— Compiled by Greg Rachac Of The Gazette Staff