MISSOULA — On the road for just the second time this season, the Montana Grizzlies will look to improve to 5-0 overall, 2-0 in Big Sky play when they visit Idaho State.
The third-ranked Grizzlies will have the upper hand on paper, catching the Bengals at a bad time. ISU enters the contest at 0-4 and will have to start its third-string quarterback versus one of the best defenses in the FCS.
The game kicks off at 1 p.m. MT Saturday, with Big Sky positioning on the line.
Greg Woods, who covers Idaho State for the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, sat down with 406mtsports.com to give some insight on this year's ISU team.
Q: What's the vibe in the locker room right now following a 0-4 start under a new head coach?
A: They're trying to keep their heads up. It'd be one thing if they were 0-4 and healthy, but that's not the case. They've lost their starting quarterback, lost their backup last weekend, so now they're down to their third-stringer. If you go back to their offseason, they had an assistant coach arrested for murder, of all things. There's just so many things that have happened that are out of first-year head coach Charlie Ragle's control. And now they get a home game against Montana. They could not have picked a worse time to have their backup go down.
Q: They are a super young team. Have you seen them making lots of young mistakes?
A: I could go on and on about the mistakes they've made. Just thinking back to last week against Northern Colorado, they gave up a punt return touchdown. It was the second week in a row they've given up a scoop-and-score. They also threw a pick into double or triple coverage. A lot of these mistakes are just self-inflicted.
Q: What's going on with the quarterback situation? What happened to the first two quarterbacks?
A: (Starter) Tyler Vander Waal broke his collarbone, actually for the second-straight year, just a horrible string of luck, I feel terrible for him. That happened against San Diego State. He was dropping back (and) he was flattened. (Backup) Hunter Hays, he fumbled a fake handoff and was running after it, scooped it back up, but got hit, and that's where he got hurt. He'll be out for Saturday, meaning Sagan Gronauer will start. He does have some experience, so that's not really the issue. The issue is that he's a third-stringer for a reason.
Q: From your eyes, what has been the toughest transition for first-year head coach Charlie Ragle?
A: The problem for him and a lot of first-year coaches is that a lot of these guys that he has on the team are just not his guys. They are from the previous head coach. That's been hard on him for sure. I don't think there's anything he's doing right now that other first-year head coaches haven't gone through. I think the big thing for him is trying to make the most out of the bad hand he's been dealt.
Q: If there is an avenue to an upset this weekend, what would it be?
A: If there was a way to do it, it would just be that Montana is totally overlooking these guys and just not taking this game very seriously. But I don't get the sense that that's what they're about. I think they understand what the stakes are and they're trying to get back to the playoffs. As much as we do talk about how bad of a hand the Bengals have been dealt and the quarterbacks, they do have some playmakers on offense between Xavier Guillory (WR), Jalen Johnson (WR), Cyrus Wallace (TE), Raiden Hunter (RB). They'll just have to find ways to make plays on offense.
Q: What do you have for a score prediction?
A: Let me go 42-13 Montana. I could see ISU scoring once or twice in garbage time when the game is out of reach.