MISSOULA — The regular season is nearing its end, and the No. 16 Montana Grizzlies (6-3, 3-3 Big Sky Conference) have one more guaranteed home game before next week's visit to Bozeman, followed by the postseason selections.
That home contest will be against Eastern Washington (2-7, 1-5), a team the Grizzlies are well familiar with, and an opponent that always brings the emotion out of both programs.
The Griz are coming off of this past Saturday's snow game blowout of Cal Poly, one the Griz offense put up 695 total yards in, including 412 on the ground, in what was a good day for the offense all around.
"It's awesome if we can run the ball for 412 yards," redshirt junior left guard Hunter Mayginnes said. "We did a pretty solid job up front just making sure that we communicated throughout the snow, and it's fun seeing Nick (Ostmo) rumbling and tumbling through the snow. He did a great job for us."
The defense put together its second shutout of the season, as they used fuel from three straight losses to get back on track.
"There's a couple of things that go into the energy we had," redshirt junior safety Nash Fouch said. "One, obviously we had a tough month of October, and I think we came out and everybody had some pent up aggression to get out and that was part of it, but I think the snow was huge for us.
"They had to go up against two storms on Saturday night. It was snowing and we were playing fast and physical."
Eastern Washington and UM played in a pair of high-profile matchups a year ago, when the Griz lost a close contest in the regular season in Cheney, Washington, but exacted revenge in the second round of the playoffs in a wild night game in Missoula where Eagles quarterback Eric Barriere threw the ball 80 times, and Montana won in a 57-41 shootout.
"I remember there was one drive specifically before halftime where I was like, (oof) they were throwing the ball, they were going tempo, and I remember running up to the locker room and being pretty gassed," Fouch recalled of the playoff game. "But that's what they do, and they have the talent at receiver to do it so wouldn't expect anything different this Saturday."
While this year's Eastern Washington team has struggled with a 2-7 record, the Eagles are known for their firepower, especially on offense, an element the Grizzlies know to be well aware of regardless of their record.
"In the passing game, they do a lot of stuff that can be problematic, especially because they have good skill players, but I think us seeing them twice last year and we kind of have the same core of guys on defense, especially in the backfield," Fouch said. "So we know what they're all about, we know what they're going to throw at us, so just got to go prepare and shut them out."
The win over Cal Poly got Montana back on the winning track, and continuing that momentum is one of the keys when the two teams kick off at Washington-Grizzly Stadium at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
"It's always exciting to have a good performance rather than a poor one," Griz head coach Bobby Hauck said. "You certainly feel better about yourself. We're the same team week-to-week, we just need to perform at a certain level and we performed at a high level on Saturday and it's my hope as the head coach that that continues."