MISSOULA — The Montana Grizzlies bye during the regular season came way back in Week 3 after just their first two games to open the season.
That bye was followed by nine straight games culminating in the recent win over Montana State to wrap up the regular season. With a 9-2 record overall and 6-2 record in Big Sky Conference play, the Grizzlies put together a resume that earned them a bye in the first round of the FCS playoffs with the No. 6 seed, and the Grizzlies used that bye over the holiday to reset and heal up ahead of their rematch with Eastern Washington.
But after the long stretch of games, UM got a chance to use the break to its advantage with another week to heal up to try and aid any existing injuries.
"Playing nine straight is hard, it's kind of luck of the draw on injuries," Griz coach Bobby Hauck said during his press conference on Monday. "Most of our injuries are long-term so we're not going to get a bunch of guys back or something like that but I think it's good physically and mentally to get refreshed and certainly coming off of the rivalry game, it's nice to be able to regroup and get ready for this one."
Quarterback Cam Humphrey, who was injured in the final seconds against Eastern Washington the first time these two teams met, echoed those thoughts.
"Having that week off, playing nine straight is tough at this level and we had some guys beat up a little bit and getting that week off really helped us out," Humphrey said.
The FCS field is now whittled down to 16 teams remaining after this past weekend's playoff games. Now, the top-8 seeds enter the mix, and for Montana, they welcome a rematch with the Eagles after dropping a close contest back in early October. EWU beat Northern Iowa 19-9 on Saturday.
The playoff bracket of the FCS is something new for FBS transfers now with the Grizzlies, like cornerback Omar Hicks Onu, who came to Montana from Oregon State.
The difference there is now, everyone has a shot at the national championship.
"I think it's great because it gives everybody an opportunity to show what they can do," Hicks Onu said. "It gives them the ability to go in the playoffs and take care of business so it's do or die at this point. So, just go out there and handle our business and get that (win)."