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No. 2 Montana welcomes Portland State in Big Sky Conference opener

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Posted at 11:24 PM, Sep 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-26 08:21:20-04

MISSOULA — After blowing through their non-conference schedule, the Montana Grizzlies are ready to jump into their eight-game Big Sky Conference slate as they pursue their first league title in over a decade.

That journey begins on Saturday in Missoula when the Grizzlies host Portland State.

"It's been fun. All of these guys are awesome, they make coming to practice really fun and going out there and being able to play with them," senior quarterback Lucas Johnson said. "Now that conference is about to start, we're all ready to turn it up a notch and get going."

The Vikings are off to an 0-2 start to the season, but both of their games have been against FBS opponents, with Portland State narrowly losing to San Jose State, 21-17, in the opener.

The Griz last saw the Vikings in their abridged 2021 spring season as one of their two opponents, and will draw on some of that experience this weekend.

"I think we're going to take a look at that game and see what they were trying to do against us," senior linebacker Patrick O'Connell said. "Like (head coach Bobby Hauck) said, they've only played two games this year, so it doesn't hurt to see what they were trying to do schematically against us in the spring."

The defense has allowed just two scores on the year for the Grizzlies, but even then, they still feel plenty can be improved on as conference play begins as they look to pitch another shutout like in the first game of the year against Northwestern State.

"It's definitely close, but there's a lot of stuff we got to clean up if we want to do that," O'Connell said. "This week we have a good opponent coming in so we have to clean up a lot of the stuff from last week and the previous weeks before that and we're going to go play our best game that we can and do what we do."

Same goes for the offense.

While a well-oiled machine against Indiana State, the Grizzlies want more improvement on that side of the ball as well.

"I feel like we could still grow in a lot of areas," Johnson said. "I think we've done some good things, we've also had some bad plays, so it's just we're going to go in and we're going to continue to grind on the film and continue to get better."

After climbing to No. 2 in the national polls after three convincing wins, the Grizzlies now look to kick off conference with a bang on homecoming weekend at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

"We're excited to be 3-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country coming out of the non-conference schedule," Hauck said. "Excited for homecoming week and start of Big Sky Conference play this week, certainly, and should be a heck of a game."