The Montana Grizzlies are looking to wrap up at least a tie for their 10th straight Big Sky Conference football title Saturday, while Montana State needs a win over Northern Arizona to stay in the running for second place in the league standings.
No. 4 Montana (8-0, 5-0 Big Sky) takes on Portland State (2-6, 2-3) while Montana State (5-3, 3-2) which fell out of the Top 25 rankings, meets Northern Arizona (5-4, 4-2). Both games kick off at noon.
The game between the Grizzlies and the Vikings in Missoula will be a clash of Montana’s defense, which allows an FCS-best 11.25 points per game and Portland State’s offense, which is averaging 30 points and league-best 361 yards passing per game. It’s been 20 years since Portland State has won in Missoula.
PSU freshman quarterback Drew Hubel completed 35 of 56 passes for 485 yards and an NCAA Division I record-tying nine touchdowns in a 73-68 loss to Weber State last weekend.
“They’re going to try to come in here and throw the football around a lot,” said UM linebacker Tyler Joyce. “It’s funny because in those 50 or 60 passes, they’re going to throw some shovel passes. That’s kind of like their run game.”
New PSU coach Jerry Glanville said if his team shows up with the offense that played against Weber State and the defense that played against Idaho State, “we could battle Montana. This is strictly speculation, but our desire is to play defense like we’ve done at times and offense like we did last week. That’ll give us a chance to make a game out of it.”
PSU wide receiver Tremayne Kirkland, who averages 102 yards receiving and has six touchdown catches this year, said his team’s offensive output against Weber State “woke Montana up. Scoring 68, I know their coaches put that up on the bulletin board. We definitely know that Montana’s bringing their best defense, after what we did last week.”
Olaniyi Sobomehin averages 63 yards rushing and has six touchdowns along with 39 yards receiving with another three scores. Kenneth Mackins and David Lewis have four touchdown catches each.
Defensively, Montana is led by Tyler Joyce with 74 tackles and Kroy Bierman with 13 sacks, five forced fumbles and a blocked kick.
Montana, which dropped a spot to fourth in The Sports Network poll, is led by Cole Bergquist, who averages 194 yards passing and had 13 touchdown passes, and Lex Hilliard, who averages 90 yards rushing and has 11 TDs. Ryan Bagley averages 66 yards receiving and has six touchdown catches.
Saturday’s game will be the final home regular season game for the Grizzlies, who will honor 22 seniors on the football team.
In Bozeman, Montana State takes on a tough Northern Arizona squad. Both teams are coming off losses — NAU to Montana and Montana State to Northern Colorado.
Northern Arizona is playing its final regular-season road game. The Lumberjacks are led by quarterback Lance Kriesien, who averages 174 yards passing and has eight touchdown passes this season to go along with 64 yards rushing and another five touchdowns.
Alex Watson averages 57 yards receiving and had four TD catches while Alex Henderson averages 81 yards rushing and has scored five touchdowns. Lionel Scott has rushed for eight touchdowns.
Montana State quarterback Jack Rolovich is averaging 226 yards passing and has eight touchdown passes this season. Josh Lewis averages 55 yards receiving and has two touchdowns. The Bobcats’ leading TD receiver, Elliott Barnhart, suffered a career-ending knee injury against Northern Colorado.
Demetrius Crawford continues to lead the Bobcat rushing game with 80 yards per game and three touchdowns. Aaron Mason also has three TD runs.
The Bobcat kicking game has suffered this season, making just 6-of-17 field goal attempts. Eric Fisher missed three field goals in the 16-13 loss at Northern Colorado a week after winning the job when Michael Sweeney was benched for missing two field goals against Sacramento State.
Coach Rob Ash said the kicking woes wear on a team.
“If we’re scoring some points and (are) ahead a little bit and have a little momentum, things would have gone the other direction,” Ash said. “As it was, our offense started to get tight and we started to press because things weren’t going well. The defense got frustrated and then I think that caused some of the penalties that we had. It just spiraled in the wrong direction and we could never get out of that funk.”
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