MISSOULA — As the first week of fall camp wraps up for the Montana Grizzlies, the team is fully focused forward in 2023. But they've got some extra fire to work with knowing just how many close games slipped through their fingers a year ago.
The Grizzlies have made the postseason three seasons in a row, including quarterfinal runs in 2019 and 2021, but last year they fell in the second round to perennial FCS powerhouse North Dakota State.
That loss, coupled with other narrow defeats, have this year's squad raring to go to rectify those results.
"You can definitely tell that guys who have put in a lot of hours and played a lot of snaps, you can definitely tell that there's more intensity from them and with the senior class there's a bunch of guys who have stepped up big time and tried to bring younger guys along with us," senior safety Nash Fouch said. "There's always a bit of a chip on your shoulder. There's a lot of unfinished business from last year of stuff we left on the table and stuff we want to get right this year.
"I think, especially for the senior class, this is our last chance so I think that helps you bring a little more intensity to offseason workouts in the weight room and everything and try and take on more of a leadership role and try and get the guys along with you."
That unfinished business stems from falling short of expectations last season.
The Griz finished 8-5 a year ago after starting the season ranked No. 3 nationally in the FCS, with three of their regular-season losses coming by one possession against future playoff teams.
In total, UM went 1-5 against teams that finished with a winning record, so this past offseason and current training camp, the Griz are honing things in, in hopes of finding ways to get the positive outcomes they're looking for.
"Once you lose, you always regain that hunger, so last year I felt we were a little bit tentative," senior left guard Hunter Mayginnes said. "Not really pushing the ball and being aggressive downfield. Whether it was on offense and defense or special teams or whatever so I think this year, once we had that loss, we came back with a different hunger, different fire and now we're really out here trying to grind and make sure that we are the best players we can be and the best team we can be."
Three of the teams UM lost to last year — Idaho, Sacramento State and Montana State — they'll see again this season.
Not to mention, UM gave NDSU a run for its money in the playoffs, showing the Grizzlies can hang with the best in the FCS.
"It's tough always taking a loss by one possession or losing in the playoffs, but we've got to take the positives and the negatives and make them all positive," Mayginnes said. "So as long as we make them all positive and just really have our team come together and just be one unit, and once we do that I think we're going to be a really good football team."
Now, it's a matter of proving it, and executing.
"I think we just have to work on finishing everything we do," Fouch said. "Fourth quarter, coach Hauck harps on it all the time. Third down, red zone, fourth quarter, all of that stuff but we have to finish games and we can't be tentative, we've got to play, play balls to the wall all the time and just put the pedal to the metal and go.