Is it too early to call the Grizzlies’ game this weekend at Eastern Washington a must-win? I don’t think so. For the second consecutive season the Griz are 2-2 after their first four games, but this is different. Montana needs this one.
This time UM runs the risk of starting 0-2 in the Big Sky Conference for the first time since 1992 and digging a hole that might prevent them from competing for the league title. And that’s pretty much unheard-of in Missoula.
Montana had to have a good week of preparation after dropping its Big Sky opener last week at home 41-31 to Northern Arizona. And coach Mick Delaney believes they have, saying the following:
“We put that game away immediately Sunday night after we made the corrections from the game tape on it. And we moved on toward Eastern Washington, which is every bit as good a football team as Northern Arizona is.”
The Griz will have to contend with a new offensive wrinkle EWU added in its win over Weber State last week.
The Eagles started redshirt freshman Vernon Adams at QB in place of Kyle Padron. Adams, whose running ability reminds Delaney of Armanti Edwards (yikes!) passed for 75 yards and rushed for 62 more before giving way to Padron in the second half. Padron, a transfer from Southern Methodist, came in to throw for 149 yards and a TD.
One big factor for the Griz will be turnovers. UM gave the ball away five times last week and is currently minus-8 on the turnover ledger, which ranks dead last in the 13-team Big Sky Conference.
Delaney believes the game will be one in the trenches and on special teams. And he knows what the Griz are up against, saying:
“It’s going to be a knock-down drag-out. Eastern is a very good football team. They’re very impressive on tape. They probably should have beat Washington State early (in the year) and they had opportunities to do that. Coach (Beau) Baldwin does a great job. They’re sound and they play hard.”
We’ll see how Montana responds in must-win mode.