Western Illinois (0-1) Missouri Valley Football Conference at Montana (1-0) Big Sky Conference
After the Montana Grizzlies upset the #20 Washington Huskies late Saturday night (or early Sunday morning for fans in the UK), the Griz put some on notice that a season off and a two game Spring season would not hamper their desire for a successful 2021.
The win also had Montana trending 4th on Twitter during the game and had many talking about a team of which they had heard little before.
The days since that historic victory (the sixth by an FCS team over a ranked FBS team since 1983) have brought about one question: will there be a letdown this week? The Grizzlies certainly hope not, as they prepare to take on the Western Illinois Leathernecks at Washington-Grizzly Stadium Saturday, Sept 11. This game is a part of the Big Sky/MVFC Challenge, which pits teams from two of the FCS’ premier conferences.
The Leathernecks hold a 3-1 series lead over the Grizzlies, most recently beating them 31-27 in 2018. Montana’s win over WIU came in Missoula in 1964.
Western Illinois lost a tough one against defending Mid-America Conference Champions Ball State last week. Despite the 31-21 loss, the UWI’s Connor Sampson was 30-43 for 367 yards against the Cardinal. WR Dennis Houston had 237 receiving yards, and safety Michael Lawson recorded 14 total tackles and two forced fumbles.
As for Montana, last week’s big star was linebacker Marcus Welnel. His late-game interception sealed the game, but he also led the team with 12 tackles. A big part of the pressure on Washington’s O-Line, Welnel recorded one of four Grizzly sacks against UW.
Punter Brian Buschini was no slouch; he averaged 47 yards on punts while placing three inside the Washington 20-yard line.
Montana’s offense, on the other hand, will be looking to improve this week. Cam Humphrey dove for what would be the winning touchdown, but he was only 12-23 for 105 yards in the air. Xavier Harris was a bright spot, rushing for 70 yards.
Milestone Note: Montana head coach Bobby Hauck, now in his second stint with the Grizzlies, will be going for his 100th win.
Sept 11, 2021, 8pm EST - ESPN +
Sept 12, 2021, 1am BST - ESPN Player
Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Missoula, Montana