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No. 12 Montana welcomes unusual yet dangerous opponent in reigning D-II champs Ferris State

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Posted at 4:25 PM, Sep 15, 2023

MISSOULA — Week 3 is upon us as the Montana Grizzlies get set for their second home game of the season.

Now 2-0 and ranked No. 12 in the FCS, UM gets set to welcome an unusual yet dangerous non-conference opponent in the Ferris State Bulldogs, the two-time reigning NCAA Division II national champs.

And when looking at Ferris State's program, one major thing jumps out.

"I think it's really the record. I mean, they win. All they do is win," UM head coach Bobby Hauck said. "They just win, and win, and win, and win and they're going to come in here this Saturday and try to win again and we're going to try not to let them."

And win, they do.

In their 11th year under head coach Tony Annese, the Bulldogs are 117-17 under his watch, including wins in 57 of their last 60 games.

The Bulldogs — whose school is based in Big Rapids, Michigan — are also riding a 28-game road winning streak that they'll put on the line in Missoula.

Led by a two-QB system on offense and an unorthodox system on defense, Ferris State has a lot key players back from their national championship run a season ago, and the Bulldogs will show what they have against a Montana squad ranked nationally in the FCS.

"I don't watch them practice, I don't watch them train in the offseason, I don't sit in their coaches meetings but I can tell you that the product they put on the field is awfully good, so they must be doing everything right," Hauck said. "You don't win like that just being good at something. They're probably pretty dang good at everything."

Montana comes in after a 30-point win over Utah Tech, in a game where the Grizzlies forced four turnovers — up from they two they had in the opener — as UM left little doubt on the road.

Those turnovers — including an interception by Trevin Gradney on the third play of the game — helped set the tone for UM in its second win, and is something the Griz will be looking for more of as they grow each week.

"I feel like we had a good week of practice," senior safety TraJon Cotton said. "Our Tuesday practice was better last week than week one and each and every practice after that just kept getting better so we just have to keep stacking those great practices and it will translate on Saturday's."

Night games always have a different feel and aura in Washington-Grizzly Stadium — see UM's playoff wins over Eastern Washington and Southeast Missouri the last two seasons — and with a Black Out scheduled for the fans plus some other festivities — including a high-profile guest to raise the 37 flag and fireworks after the game — the energy will be high on Saturday, and the Grizzlies will be looking to use all of the momentum they can to close out their non-conference schedule on a high note.

"We want to capitalize on the opportunity when we get the ball and then we want to possess it our own selves and not give it away, and so when we can take it away and go down and get points, those are huge momentum plays in a game and momentum counts," Hauck said. "You have to overcome it or you have to keep it but momentum counts."