Unbeaten Grizzlies hit the road

Star Staff
Friday, September 14, 2018

The University of Montana football team will take its No. 15 national ranking and its 2-0 record to Macomb, Illinois on Saturday to play the Leathernecks of Western Illinois University.

Western Illinois, a member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, is 0-2 on the season. The Leathernecks dropped a 26-23 decision to Montana State on Aug. 30, and lost 34-14 to the Big 10 Conference’s Illinois last Saturday.

Montana opened the season with a pair of wins at Washington-Grizzly Stadium — 26-23 over Northern Iowa on Sept. 1 and 48-16 over Drake last Saturday. Despite the win, they slipped a notch in the FCS rankings to 15th, after starting the season ranked No. 24.

Grizzly head coach Bobby Hauck said to set the records aside for the non-conference matchup, noting in a news release that Western Illinois will have a home-field advantage. The Leathernecks are 33-4 at home against non-conference opponents since 1999.

Hauck said in his weekly news conference on Monday that it’s essential to win on the road. “We’ve talked about that as a team, and I’m excited to go on the road with these guys and see how they perform. We need to understand it’s a different environment when we go someplace else, but the field is the same size.”

The Grizzlies have exhibited a tough defense, led by junior Dante Olson, who has been named the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week two weeks in a row. Against Drake Olson logged two sacks, forced a fumble, broke up a pass and racked up 16 tackles, including three and one-half tackles for losses.

Montana sophomore cornerback Dareon Nash has also impressed. Last week he intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered a fumble.

Grizzly quarterback Dalton Sneed is 57-for-86 passing for 526 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target is Jerry Louie-McGee, who caught 14 passes for 133 yards last week.

Sneed also leads the team in rushing with 123 yards. Freshman receiver Malik Flowers was a force on special teams, returning two kickoffs for 78 total yards.

Western Illinois features a veteran quarterback in Sean McGuire. The senior has thrown for 7,365 yards and 55 touchdowns in his fouryear college career.

Kickoff is at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Hanson Field in Macomb. The game will not be televised.