UND football team expecting a motivated Montana
The Montana football program has blown out UND twice in the past three years, so the last thing the Fighting Hawks wanted to see was the Griz coming to Grand Forks this weekend with any extra motivation or incentive.
Thanks, Portland State.
Portland State, expected to finish near the bottom of the Big Sky Conference standings, pulled off a surprising 22-20 upset of the Griz on homecoming in front of more than 25,000 last Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.
UND (3-2 overall) will host No. 22 Montana (4-2 overall) at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Alerus Center, and the Fighting Hawks expect to see some grumpy Griz.
"They'll come in with something to prove," UND sophomore safety Ty Shannon said. "We'll have to match that tempo and play our game. They're going to want to show they're the real deal, and they're going to have their 'A' game."
This UND team shouldn't need to be reminded of Montana's rich winning tradition.
In both 2015 and 2017, the Fighting Hawks limped to Missoula with a backup quarterback and were swallowed up in the frenzy of Wash-Griz.
In 2015, Montana won 42-16. After starter Keaton Studsrud was injured prior to the game, backup Ryan Bartels had 28 first-half passing yards en route to 113 total for the game. Montana quarterback Makena Simis, meanwhile, passed for a school-record tying six touchdown passes in his first career start.
In 2017, Montana won 41-17 and it was mostly over at halftime at 20-3. Studsrud, again, was injured for this game. UND gave Brad Heidlebaugh his first career start, and he was 5-for-15 for 56 yards and an interception. Heidlebaugh, now a UND wide receiver, was pulled at halftime. On the other sideline, Montana quarterback Gresch Jensen threw for 423 yards.
"Montana has been our kryptonite the past couple of years," Shannon said. "They're always a good team."
UND's showing against Montana has been better in Grand Forks, where the teams played three years in a row from 2012-14.
UND's last win over Montana came prior to head coach Bubba Schweigert's tenure, which started in 2014. Under head coach Chris Mussman in 2012, UND's Braden Hanson, a graduate transfer quarterback from North Carolina, passed for 660 yards and wide receiver Greg Hardin had 333 receiving yards. UND won 40-34.
After parting ways with head coach Bob Stitt after last season, the Griz are led by coach Bobby Hauck, who is back in Missoula after a successful previous stint with the Griz from 2003-09.
"It's a new staff and a new style," Schweigert said. "This is a team with lots of tradition, and they're a proud program. They'll come in here ready to go."
Montana at UND
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Where: Alerus Center
Records: UND 3-2; Montana 4-2
TV/Radio: MidcoSN, 96.1 FM
Of note: Montana lost to Portland State last Saturday in its homecoming game. It was the only the fourth time the Griz lost a homecoming game at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.