GREELEY, COLO. — After beating Southern Utah last weekend, the No. 11 Montana Grizzlies are currently riding a two-game winning streak with just three games left in the regular season.
The Grizzlies (6-2, 3-2 Big Sky Conference) are coming off of the upset scare, 20-19, to the Thunderbirds, a penalty-ridden game but one Montana also committed four turnovers in, making it plenty of areas Montana can find ways to still improve.
"A lot out of our control I think but a lot in our control," Griz coach Bobby Hauck said at his Monday press conference. "We need to quit making mistakes as best we can. Sometimes when you’re as inexperienced as we are that’s going to happen but that doesn’t mean that we have to accept it as coaches or players, so we’ll do our best to try and fix it."
Northern Colorado (3-6, 2-4) has played a tough Big Sky Conference schedule, with blowout losses to some of the conference's elite teams like Eastern Washington, Montana State and UC Davis. The Bears hold wins over Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.
Kickoff for Saturday's game is at noon.
But after beating the Thunderbirds two weeks ago, the Bears followed that up well and almost had an upset of their own last weekend against Sac State, as they lost to the Hornets 27-24. Sac State and MSU are the last two remaining teams that have spotless conference records.
So, like last week, the Grizzlies will be heading into another game against a team lower in the standings that they'll need to be sharp for.
But when asked about how he'd evaluate his team at this point in the season, Hauck again pointed to the team's health and the number of injuries piling up, and how that's led to inexperienced players getting thrown into big minutes which has been a result of some of the team's inconsistencies of late.
"If a guy’s a four-year starter and has played 40 games, and he misses a couple of days of practice he can probably catch up on the film and he’s probably technically sound and has seen a lot of things come at him," Hauck said. "When you’ve got a guy that hasn’t played many games and is inexperienced if he can’t go get the looks during the week and actually go do them he probably will struggle."
Hauck did get a pair of injured players back last week though in a limited fashion as starting quarterback Cam Humphrey made his return as did running back Nick Ostmo. However, Humphrey came in on the third drive of the game and left early after getting sacked late in the first half while Ostmo only played five plays. Montana's running backs continue to be a depleted position group for the Grizzlies.
As far as managing injuries and inexperience, Hauck said this year has been as challenging as he's ever seen.
"We’re injured and we’re fighting to get back for Saturday’s and be competitive on Saturdays that’s where we are right now," Hauck said. "That’s where we are. We do the best we can and try to get ready and limp out there on Saturday and try to get a win and that’s what it’s gonna be this week too."