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After blistering through non-league play, Montana Grizzlies shift focus to Big Sky slate

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Posted at 2:02 PM, Sep 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-20 14:08:56-04

TERRE HAUTE, IND. — It was another convincing non-conference win for the Montana Grizzlies football team on Saturday when they defeated the Indiana State Sycamores, 49-14. Now, the Grizzlies shift their focus to Big Sky Conference play as they get set to begin their conference slate.

The Grizzlies outscored their three non-conference opponents 120-21.

While UM did allow an early touchdown against the Sycamores on Saturday, the Griz defense adjusted and clamped down and didn't allow another point the rest of the way, with ISU's defense scoring their lone other touchdown. Montana's defense finished with four sacks and just 219 yards allowed in the game.

It's a hot start, but linebacker Patrick O'Connell thinks UM can be even better.

"Honestly, it probably should've been zero (points allowed) in both of those games (against ISU and South Dakota) and there's a lot of stuff that we need to improve on, but you see how good we've been playing," said O'Connell, who had 2.5 sacks against Sycamores. "I think the biggest takeaway for me was how much better that we can get and how much better that we will get as the season goes along and I'm super excited for that and that's just a testament to all of the hard work that our guys have put in and it's awesome."

Offensively, quarterback Lucas Johnson showed his continued comfort with UM's offense in his third game as a Grizzly, as the senior accounted for three passing scores and ran for another.

"I think we're doing a good job," Johnson said. "I think the whole team as a whole, defense is doing their job, offense we're trying to do our job, special teams is doing a great job so I think if we just keep playing as a team we should be good."

All in all, Saturday's game was the trilogy in three comfortable wins for the No. 3 Grizzlies to start 3-0.

But now they turn their attention to their eight-game conference schedule, beginning with Portland State on Saturday in Missoula.

"We've won the week three straight times, got ourselves to 3-0 and ready to start conference play, so we're excited to get a big win on the road," Hauck said.

The competition will undoubtedly ramp up in Big Sky play for the Grizzlies, who were picked in the preseason polls to win the league, but now get a chance to prove it on the field starting Saturday.

"It's awesome," Johnson said. "That's what we were preaching, we have to go 3-0 in non-conference and so now it's time to start conference and everybody is really hyped for that, so the notch is about to get turned up a little bit."