Check out this item, which has already made Deadspin.com, on how the University of Washington has tried to bring in-game updates from sports writers in check.
I’d have had no idea of this unless Todd Dybas, a writer for the Tacoma News-Tribune, hadn’t been reprimanded for going over his 20 allowed tweets during a recent Washington-Huskies basketball game. The good news: He gets 45 tweets for a Huskies football game.
The bad news: I had 56 tweets during the Montana Grizzlies’ 24-21 win at Weber State on Nov. 3. A handful were not in-game updates, but apparently I still broke a major rule of engagement.
It’s a warning shot across the bow; maybe I need to slow down a bit. Less “2nd-half kickoff skips past Kirschner for touchback,
#Griz will start at own 25.” I need to make sure I have a Tweet left for, “This almost goes without saying, but Weber’s Cordero Dixon just took kickoff 100 yards.”
Because by the time Dixon took it to the crib, I had tweeted 50 times – 45 in the first three quarters. And less is more, right?
I forget where I read that.
You can follow me @Fritz_Neighbor, by the way. My icon has a dude riding a steer at the Harlowton (Mont.) Fourth of July parade. That dude is not me.
- Fritz Neighbor
The University of Montana released its 2013 football schedule during this bye week, a 12-game docket that includes six contests at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
The road games are interesting, including a Sept. 14 game at the University of North Dakota — the Grizzlies’ second straight trip to Grand Forks. It gets better (or worse): The Griz will go back to UND again in 2014. This is partly because next year’s game is the second half of a home-and-home contract signed before UND joined the Big Sky Conference; it won’t count in the league standings.
In 2014 Montana goes back to Grand Forks because the league schedulers, juggling with a 13-team lineup, had to make certain series 2-and-1. Montana and UND have one; the Green and White will face UM in Missoula in 2015. Similarly, Montana visits Weber again in 2015 while the Wildcats make one visit to Missoula, next season. The Grizzlies hosted NAU this season and will again in 2015; in between they’ll visit Flagstaff once, in 2014.
The Oklahoma Panhandle State game on Sept. 21 stands out because the Aggies are Division II (and 5-4 this season); but with a 12-team schedule, another Division I opponent was going to be hard to find. And the Griz will still have 11 chances to pick up seven Division I victories – a key criterium for making the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Biggest bummer: At this point the Griz don’t get back to Portland State until 2015. It’s a trip favored by many a well-traveled Griz fan. The Vikings visit Missoula on Oct. 5 next season, and so I’m still hopeful the two can schedule a non-league game in Rip City in 2014.
Meanwhile, we’ll have to make do with Grand Forks — which, for the record, I liked. Like Joe Glenn asked recently: “What’s that say about me? I like hamburgers.” JL Beers makes a good one. And as for Glenn, the Griz will visit South Dakota on Nov. 9, 2014 — their first visit to Vermillion since 1974.
- Fritz Neighbor
Now that the dust has settled on Montana’s hard-earned 24-21 win at Weber State – or whatever stands in for dust on artificial turf — there are things I should have taken into consideration while writing up that gamer.
1) Weber linebacker Anthony Morales was everywhere. His hard hit, combined with the ground, broke up a TD pass to Bryce Carver ahead of Chris Lider’s first-quarter field goal; he and Willie Okwuonu teamed up on Sam Gratton on that third-quarter pass that ended up intercepted. I overheard someone say there was no way Morales had 23 tackles Saturday, and so — because this is the life I lead — I went back and counted. I have him for 21.
2) Shay Smithwick-Hann had a 157.8 quarterback rating after a very slow first quarter. To be honest, that pass to Carver that Morales broke up was perfect … and as good as that one was, he missed Gratton bad on the next play. But then in the fourth quarter, you had to like how one play after his TD pass to Greg Hardy was negated because the Griz lined up wrong — Ellis Henderson was on the line of scrimmage instead of yard back, meaning Hardy was “covered” and had to stay home – Smithwick-Hann calmly hit Carver for the score.
3) This isn’t new: The Griz took advantage of great field position via two blocked punts and three fumbles — two of them forced by sophomore defensive end Zack Wagennann – for a grand total of three points. Every other Griz score came via drives of 49, 80, 54 and 80 yards. What gives? Sure was a big three points, though.
4) There was word from the Weber State side that Mike Hoke was going to throw the crap out of the ball against a suspect Griz pass defense that had somehow disrespected him. And while UM lucked out when Xavian Johnson dropped a first-quarter bomb (find the ball, Herm!), and safety Bo Tully might’ve saved a fourth-quarter TD when Weber’s Kris Parham took a shovel pass 16 yards, it is the end results that matter. Hoke’s QB rating was just 114.3. Josh Sorenson’s was 0.0 because his double pass was knocked away (way to find the ball, Nate Harris!). The Griz ran 27 more plays than the Wildcats.
5) I wanted Alex Bienemann to get a sack when Mike Hoke took an intentional grounding call in the first quarter. I believe Trumaine Johnson was awarded a sack for the intentional grounding/safety against the Bobcats last November (I checked; he was).
6) For all that sterling defense, it still came down to the end. I was a little surprised Weber didn’t try for the onside kick — I mean, why not — after Cordero Dixon’s 100-yard kick return. This was a game that Montana could have and maybe should have dominated (but like I said, Morales was everywhere), but often couldn’t get out of its own way. The Griz had third-and-12 in the fourth quarter, took a delay of game penalty and then ran a screen that gained 15 yards on third-and-17. They will have to button down to beat the No. 2-ranked Cats on Nov. 17, pure and simple.
- Fritz Neighbor
The Montana Grizzlies have lost in their last two trips to Ogden, Utah, but today is a little bit of a switch: It is unseasonably warm down here. The forecast calls for 55 degrees at kickoff (1:30 p.m.) and there’s a 10 percent chance of rain. I gotta tell you, it seems to rain every time the Griz play in Ogden, but they may get a break today. I say “may” because you can always get 100 percent of that 10 percent.
I went back and read my pre-story on the Weber State game and there’s something I left out: The Montana Grizzlies give up scads of yards through the air, so I have to think the Wildcats are going to throw more than usual. Mike Hoke doesn’t have the greatest stats this year but a year ago he pretty money accuracy-wise. The Grizzlies’ last three opponents have put up a total of 170 passes. I’d take the under on Hoke throwing 57 times today, but he is going to throw it.
I hope Griz fans enjoyed my feature on Big Sky High product Brett Brauer, Montana’s short-snapper. I sure had a great time writing it. The Wildcats await Jordan Canada, Peter Nguyen, Joey Counts, John Schmaing, Logan Hines, Brock Coyle at the rest. On paper it’s another winnable game for Montana, but we’ve all seen how this season has turned. The Griz need more big plays and fewer mistakes to get back to .500 — and win a second straight game for the first time all season. All this while being short-handed.
- Fritz Neighbor
That wasn’t much of a fight the Idaho State Bengals put up Saturday, in a 70-24 loss to the Montana Grizzlies, but you know they are chasing history. I just learned that in 2008 the Bengals gave up a Big Sky-record 494 points. They’ve given up 432 already this season, and have games left against Northern Arizona, Cal Poly and Weber State.
As the Griz look ahead — minus three starters — to their game at Weber Saturday, I thought I’d look back at some of the things I missed during the ISU pummeling.
a) I tweeted that John Kanongata’a and Sean Murray almost had picks on ISU’s first scoring drive, but not that backup linebacker Nick Holt did have a pick … that the officials didn’t see. Then again, it was awfully tough to see at full speed; a deflected pass that Holt spun to the ground around. In the meantime, ISU’s Cam Richmond made a dynamite catch against Nate Harris on the first play of the second quarter. But officials called Richmond out of bounds. So I guess they’re square.
b) Quarterback Shay Smithwick-Hann was mostly good but sometimes a little off. One pick came on a pass too far in front and too high for tightly-covered Greg Hardy, who tipped it. The other came on a throw forced into Sam Gratton.
“There’s a lot of things you can learn from,” Smithwick-Hann said. “I think I learned quick you can’t force passes. You have to make better throws on third down. It all starts with me getting better in the film room this week.”
The Griz will be solid if he manages to improve, because here’s what Smithwick-Hann was passing on third down Saturday: 6-7-1 for 91 yards and 1 TD. NCAA efficiency rating: 213.49.
c) I’d heard that Montana was going to run more five- and six-defensive back defense at the Bengals, but I didn’t see much — possibly because the game so quickly got out of hand. On the Bengals’ first third down the Griz ran in a dime package, but much of the time the fifth defensive back was Jordan Tripp — the Griz went 3-3-5 with their 244-pound junior running back playing deep safety.
“I don’t know the exact number of plays, but I know we did play a lot of nickel and some dime,” UM coach Mick Delaney said. “Our guys got back today and covered very, very well. It’s a little easier to cover when you get pressure on the quarterback.”
d) The Griz also knocked down three passes at the line; linebacker Brock Coyle, defensive end Zack Wagenmann and defensive tackle Jesse Ginn did the honors.
e) As in error: I said the last time the Griz broke 70 points was against Idaho State in 1999. I must have meant the last time against a Big Sky opponent, because they beat Division II Western State of Colorado 73-2 in 2010.
It was an encouraging victory in that Delaney and his staff quickly worked in younger players like Joey Counts and Brett Kirschner, and continued to light up the scoreboard. Now comes Weber State, a team that is 1-7 but dangerous. The Wildcats’ lone win came at Southern Utah on Oct. 20 (Weber had a bye last week). That’s the same Southern Utah squad that won at Montana on Oct. 13, and beat then-No. 1 Eastern Washington this past Saturday.
- Fritz Neighbor
Idaho State’s Mike Kramer won’t coach Saturday against the Montana Grizzlies but he can still talk. He’ll send up a Bengal team heck-bent on throwing the football with Kevin Yost, but the veteran Big Sky Conference coach gushed just as much about the Griz, who are in danger of their first losing season since 1985.
“This is a 3-5 ball club that still, offensively, is extremely, extremely dangerous,” Kramer said Wednesday. He was also impressed with how Shay Smithwick-Hann played in relief of Griz starting QB Trent McKinney at North Dakota, and added:
“But you’re holding your breath every time Montana runs the ball. I think we counted 21 times, in the game, where North Dakota’s last possible defensive player made the run-game tackle.”
Well, that sent me back to the DVR. It’s not like watching game video from the schools, who shoot from the end zone and sideline and frame all 22 players on the field. But the best I could come up with from ROOT Sports was three run plays, all by Jordan Canada, that almost went to the house.
Perhaps this is why I’m not a coach.
At any rate Montana’s offense can be scary, and in a good way. The Griz are facing an Idaho State defense that surrendered 758 yards and 77 points to Portland State earlier this year. And the Bengals’ defensive coordinator won’t be here Saturday, either. It’s Kramer, and he will be missed — if only by a press corps that loves a good quote.
This seems to be going around. A post-game tirade by Wyoming’s Dave Christensen at Air Force coach Troy Calhoun landed Christensen a one-week suspension. In Christensen’s place for the Cowboys’ game against Boise State? Former Griz O-line coach Pete Kaligis.
- Fritz Neighbor
Where do I begin? For starters, North Dakota speedster Greg Hardin had a game and a half against a Grizzly defense that seemed ill-suited to stop him. The 170-pounder caught the winning touchdown with 12 seconds left in UND’s 40-34 victory over the Montana Grizzlies, Saturday, but by halftime he’d set a school record.
The old single-game reciving mark at UND was 232 yards by Jesse Smith, in 2002. By intermission the junior — yes, Hardin’s just a junior, with 2,228 career receiving yards already — had 243. He finished with a Big Sky-record 333 yards, while Braden Hansen threw for a league-record 660.
Having watched the game again, I have to say: It doesn’t get any better the second time. It is true that for awhile, during a strong third quarter and the first 11 minutes of the fourth, the Griz pitched a shutout. Montana began bluffing the blitz and staying with four pass-rushers, and the corners stuck to some routes while the linebackers got in passing lanes. Sean Murray and Anthony Goodwin made interceptions — John Kanongata’a nearly had another — and Murray’s led directly to points.
So there was that. And this being a team game, I have to put a lot of the blame on an offense that got nothing going after UM went ahead 34-31.
A run game that was pretty productive got put on the back burner on the Grizzlies’ last possession of the third quarter, and stayed there. In the fourth a bad snap from Kjelby Oiland turned second-and-3 (from UND’s 46) into third-and-13; I already wrote about that option play on the next failed drive — to the short side, fooling nobody, with the two right side behemoths (Kistler and Poehls) merely faking a zone block — so enough said there. Shay Smithwick-Hann, who’d checked down pretty well in his first real action as the Griz QB, stared down a couple of his receivers late, including a third-down pass he sailed over Greg Hardy.
Though I think Ellis Henderson should have hung onto another third-down throw with 4:30 left. If he does I believe he scores and UM leads 41-31.
There was plenty of this to go around.
a) Hardy’s fumble at the UND 21-yard line with 1:51 left in the first half (I said that was the only Griz turnover, but Smithwitk-Hann fumbled on the game’s final play).
b) Smithwick-Hann handing off on a read-zone when he had a huge lane in the fourth quarter.
c) Sean Haynes having a TD pass in his hands in the second quarter, and (d) Bryce Carver missing a block on the next play. That screen pass lost 6 yards and UM settled for a Chris Lider field goal.
Eventually, UND went ahead 38-34 when Hanson found Kenny Golladay for 17 yards and a toe-tapping TD with 2:15 left in the game… Oh wait, it didn’t count. The officials missed that Golladay had a foot in and UND settled for field goal to knot it at 34-all.
By then Montana had punted on four straight possessions and would again, with the game tied. Murray unintentionally hit the punt return man, with or without help from a UND blocker, but the 15-yard penalty mattered little. Hanson and Hardin starting clicking again.
I hear you, fans, when you gripe about the defense. Like I said, those 660 yards passing don’t look any better upon review. North Dakota got behind the safeties for three-quarters of the game. But with a few plays or play calls, the Griz offense could have shortened that total and won a winnable game. I don’t know, maybe Larry Donovan’s offensively-challenged teams are to blame. I just seem to be wired this way.
(I felt the same way after the Wofford playoff game in 2007, which UM lost 23-22: ”Can’t stop the option,” fans said. “Dan Carpenter came up small.” All I could think was, “Why didn’t we run the score play?”)
Here are some numbers: Hanson’s QB efficiency rating for the game (a school-record 42 completions in 61 attempts, 3 picks, 660 yards and 5 TDs) was 176.95. The Griz did seem to do better with a four-man rush: Hanson was 15-27-2 for 295 yards and 2 TDs (QB rating 156.96).
Against 6- and 7-man rushes, he was 8-12-0 for 79 yards and 2 TDs, including the game-winner (176.97). And against a 5-man rush? Holy schneikies: 18-21-1 for 262 yards and a TD against (210.60).
The Grizzlies kissed a playoff berth goodbye Saturday, and games that generally looked like gimmes — Idaho State and Weber State have a total of two wins — now look a lot tougher. Since the Griz are a made-over staff with a first-year head coach and a defense with nine new starters and an offense minus a running back and switching QBs, I guess I aimed too high when I figured the team would go 8-3. But I also believe this: They could be 7-1 right now instead of 3-5. These Griz are talented enough to make plays; they just have to make ‘em.
- Fritz Neighbor
The Alerus Center is just starting to fill up for Saturday’s football game between the Montana Grizzlies and University of North Dakota. It’s a first for the Big Sky Conference, which just welcomed UND into the fold this season, but not for the two teams. This will be their 20th meeting, and there are more than a few folks around Grand Forks who remember the last meeting here.
It was at (outdoor) Memorial Stadium, and it was in 1973.
“Our alums kind of circled this game a long time ago on the schedule,” said UND coach Chris Mussman.
The Griz will be back here for their second game of the 2013 season, thanks to a home-and-home contract signed before UND joined the Big Sky. North Dakota lost 27-17 in Missoula in 2010; next fall will be the return game, and it won’t count in the league standings.
By then Greg Hardy will have used up all of his eligibility, which is why Fairview’s football team bused over for this game. Though there will still be an 8-man football product turned tight end on next year’s Griz team: Clay Pierson.
- Fritz Neighbor
A little layover in Minneapolis gives me time to post a few stories on Saturday’s game between the Montana Grizzlies and another Big Sky Conference newcomer, the University of North Dakota.
The Griz aren’t going into Grand Forks at full strength, since running back Dan Moore is still sidelined by a high-ankle sprain. It is good to see receiver Sam Gratton back on the field; Gratton, who was out with the flu, might have helped in the second half of UM’s 30-20 loss to Southern Utah last week.
Then again, Griz quarterback Trent McKinney had 170 yards passing by halftime.
“It is nice,” McKinney said of having Gratton back. “But you can’t let one guy affect the whole passing rottion. I think our receivers did really good in the first half with stepping up and filling his spot.”
The second half… well. Everybody knows that story, including Mick Delaney.
North Dakota, the team with no nickname, may not have defensive end Ross Brenneman Saturday. But the hosts can score enough points that it may not matter. UND coach Chris Mussman has amassed quite a bit of talent and it seems like it’ll only get better in Grand Forks.
- Fritz Neighbor
First the Montana Grizzlies lose a second straight home game for the first time since Dornblaser Field was vacated in 1986, 30-20 to Southern Utah. Then my DVR goes on the Fritz.
Maybe it’s better this way. I probably shouldn’t have another look at that shoulder to shoulder hit by Griz safety Bo Tully against Griff McNabb that was flagged as a personal foul on SUU’s third-quarter drive. Nor should I look at Nate Harris’ alleged facemask penalty in which Fatu Moala never had his headgear grabbed – but it negated Moala’s fumble on the same drive.
Shortly after SUU quarterback Brad Sorensen rumbled into the end zone to complete that march, on third-and-goal from the 2, somebody sent me a screen grab of the play and Sorensen’s knee appeared to be down well short of the goal line.
So, yeah, just as well. Not that any one drive or penalty made the difference in Montana’s fourth loss of the season. The Griz had ample opportunities to make hay Saturday, and the offense never found a rhythm the second half. In fact after Grizzlies’ first series after halftime, I tweeted that it appeared they needed some 5-Hour Energy; they looked that lethargic.
Bill Speltz pointed out, accurately, that Montana is playing a ton of young kids, including a freshman at quarterback, during a difficult transition. Whether you should burn that many other redshirts and then not play them is another story. Southern Utah had a true freshman at a critical position Saturday; middle linebacker Zak Browning made 18 tackles. Fellow true freshman Mike Needham had another 12.
All is not lost. A certain amount of adversity is expected for a team with a new QB, running plays for a new offensive coordinator, while new people are running special teams as well as a defense that lost 10 starters. That’s not to mention Mick Delaney hasn’t been a head coach since 1992. But the Griz clearly can, and need to, play better.
If they do, and put together a 4-game winning streak – making them 7-4 with momentum – there is this: Five teams made the 2010 FCS playoffs with 7-4 records (the Griz were also 7-4 that year but had just six Division I wins and a couple disheartening losses — including one to, yes, Eastern Washington).
Next UM has to get past scrappy North Dakota, on the road. It is a major challenge for a team that hasn’t been able to meet many this season. So far.
- Fritz Neighbor