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Weber State football: Grizzlies have improved since WSU loss

SHARE Weber State football: Grizzlies have improved since WSU loss

The last time Montana faced Weber State, the Grizzlies didn't look like a typical Montana team.

The Grizzlies gave up numerous big plays in a 45-28 loss to the Wildcats on Oct. 4. They surrendered 192 rushing yards, had their quarterback sacked seven times and turned the ball over four times. Their streak of winning at least a share of the Big Sky title in 10 consecutive seasons looked to be in serious jeopardy.

And now?

Montana is Montana again, and it really just took a week for the Grizzlies to recapture their swagger and dominance in the Big Sky following their loss to Weber State. Montana, 12-1, has reeled off eight straight victories, all by double digits, since being humbled in Ogden. They have a shot at revenge when they host the Wildcats in a Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal game on Saturday.

The Grizzlies say they performed no magic tricks and that they didn't make any great adjustments since losing to Weber State. They just kept doing what's made Montana an FCS powerhouse for several years.

"You got to give credit to Weber for beating us," said Grizzlies strong safety Colt Anderson. "We didn't really change anything we did. We just went back to doing what we had been."

Montana hasn't given up anything close to the 45 points it allowed to Weber State since the two teams played. The week after losing to the Wildcats, the Grizzlies rebounded with a statement win in a 19-3 victory over Eastern Washington, the same team that subsequently defeated Weber State in the final week of the regular season. Montana has only allowed more than 13 points once during its current eight-game winning streak.

"Defensively, they play well together," said Weber State coach Ron McBride. "Everybody knows their role and everybody plays their role. The safety (Anderson) is a great player. The linebackers do what they're supposed to do, the down linemen do what they're supposed to do, the corners do what they're supposed to do.

"It's a sound football team, and they've always had a sound football team."

Offensively, the Grizzlies have been sparked by running back Chase Reynolds. Montana likes to stay balanced on offense, but it will likely try to pound the ball with Reynolds to keep Weber State's high-powered offense on the sideline. Reynolds has rushed for more than 100 yards in six straight games, gaining 955 yards and 13 touchdowns during that span.

The Wildcats kept Reynolds in check in Ogden, as he rushed for just 40 yards on 12 carries. Weber State will see a much-improved runner this time.

"They're running the ball better than they did at the beginning of the year," McBride said. "They're a well-coached, disciplined football team, and they don't make a lot of mistakes."

Perhaps the biggest factor in helping Montana rebound from its loss to Weber State was that the Grizzlies didn't make the defeat bigger than it was. It was, after all, just one loss. Montana went back to work, hoping it would have a shot of at least sharing the Big Sky championship for the 11th consecutive year.

Thanks to Weber State's loss to Eastern Washington in its regular-season finale, and the Grizzlies' stellar play down the stretch, Montana kept its streak alive.

Interestingly, despite losing to the Wildcats, the fifth-ranked Grizzlies stayed ahead of the 10th-ranked Wildcats in the Top 25, and were awarded a higher seed in the FCS playoffs.

"We don't panic when we happen to lose a game," said Montana coach Bobby Hauck. "From years past, we know how hard it is to run the table in this conference. We felt like we could still have a championship season, but you can only control what you can control."

Wildcats on the air

Weber State (10-3)at Montana (12-1)

Saturday, 12:05 p.m.

Washington-Grizzly Stadium

Missoula, Mont.

TV: Altitude Sports

Radio: 1430 AM

E-mail: aaragon@desnews.com