Well the Griz are off to Boone, NC to play Appalachian State. We’ve been waiting for this game for years now and both sides enter this game very excited to see it play out. Of course fresh on App’s minds are the 2009 loss in Wa Griz and there’s still talk of the 2000 overtime loss also here in Missoula. It’s to the point that there are videos out already where App is encouraging people to get out and see the game and are pegging this coming game as their time to get revenge.

Record: 0-1

13-35 loss to ECU: App hung tough in the game and actually dominated a lot of the stats however miscues and late errors led to their demise. ECU held a narrow 14-10 lead at the half and finally got some breathing room after App got within 1 point. App kicked a fieldgoal to get within 1 but ECU took the ensuing kickoff back for a TD. With the ball back App goes 3 and out and ECU marches right down the field and scores again. ECU picked off App on their next series and added 1 more TD to get to the final score. In the game ECU gained nearly 150 yards and had a very solid 4.2 yards per rush as well as nearly 250 passing yards. App meanwhile ran for 120 and passed for 300 yards (outgaining ECU). ECU controlled the clock, holding the ball for nearly 34:00 and while they were 9 for 15 on 3rd down their defense held App to 4 of 15 on 3rd down. ECU could’ve tacked on a little more as well, I see they missed 2 field goals (App missed 1).

Players to watch:

#12 – Jamal Jackson, a big QB at 6-3 208 Jackson started the final 7 games for App last year and passed for 2000 yards and ran for another 300. Against ECU Jackson went 23-40 and had 300 yards, he also ran for 40 yards and had 1 rushing TD.

#15 – Tony Washington, one of the returning wide receivers that has a lot of expectations on him as he heads into this season. Washington had 355 receiving yards and 2 TDs last year. Against ECU he had 102 yards on 7 receptions. Tony is the main KR/PR guy too, had a long KR of 27 yards against ECU.

#11 – Andrew Peacock, Opposite of Washington Peacock is the other experienced WR that App has. Peacock had pretty limited work last year but in their first game he had 77 receiving yards, 2nd best in the game. Watch for him in a run/lateral/reverse play, he had 8 rush attempts last year.

#7 – Malachai Jones, A freshman WR, Jones was another popular target for Jackson who found him 5 times for 69 yards.

#3 – Stephen Miller, The 5-9 senior running back led the team in carries and rush yards with 47 yards on the ground and another 7 receiving. Last year Miller had the 2nd most rushing yards on the team with 380 and added 3 TDs. He’s a pass-catching threat as well, had 132 yards last year.

#8 – Rod Chisholm, another 5-9 RB, Chisholm had a few less carries than Miller and had 37 yards rushing. I got a text from someone that he might be out with an injury? Not sure here.

#33 – Jeremy Kimbrogh, leading a group of talented linebackers Kimbrough opened the season with 13 tackles and 1 TFL. Last year he was the team leader in tackles with 105, he also tied the team lead with 4 sacks, and had 2 fumble recoveries.

#24 – Brandon Grier, another one of App’s stud linebackers Grier had 9 tackles against ECU and forced a fumble. In 2011 he was 2nd on the team in total tackles with 97 and had 10.5 TFLs.

#9 – Troy Sanders, on his 3rd year starting Sanders is a very experienced safety, 3rd best in tackles last year (79) he also had 2 picks. Against ECU he 10 tackles, 1.5 TFLs and 1 interception.

#10 – Demetrius McCray, a 6 foot senior corner McCray had 5 picks last year to go with 48 tackles. Against ECU he tallied 3 tackles.

Keys for a Grizzly victory

1. Shore up the pass D. The one glaring issue in our first game was Dennard getting burned badly for an 80 yard TD. This App team will be airing it out and we cannot give up big plays like this. It’ll help with Nate Harris returning, but will he show some first game rust since he had to watch from the sidelines on Saturday?

2. Win at the line of scrimmage. This could be the single biggest factor in the game. The Griz OL looked great against a USD d-line that couldn’t hang. We rotated 8 different linemen in and they couldn’t do a thing to slow the run. ECU showed good success running against App, if we can get Pete and Dan to duplicate their work plus get Canada in there as well we can control the clock and keep that dangerous App offense off the field.

3. Do your 1 / 11. A phrase we’ve heard players and coaches say. App will stretch the field and if USD gave us any indicator we saw JP and Tripp as well as Harris and Wags do well to follow the option and mis-direction runs around the edge and not over-commit. App will test that even more with a more experienced team throughout.

4. Win the turnover battle. As App showed they had some fumble issues last week, lets capitalize on that. On the other side don’t fumble punts and how about no easy pick-6 TDs for the other team? Rosy and the offense will have to tweak that quick pass game as App’s defense will be much quicker to those plays and will be looking to hop a few passes.

5. Don’t let miscues and errors control your path. We are a younger team that is going on the road in what will promise to be as hostile of an environment as Wa Griz can be in the playoffs. This team is bound to make errors but how they respond to it and bounce back from it will be key.

6. Get some traction in special teams. ECU not only had a 90 yard kickoff TD but a 43 yard punt return as well. Be it Nguyen, Moore, or Naccarato returning kicks/punts this could help tip the field our way. On the other side don’t kickoff to App – just boot it out of the endzone, they had 3 guys all with nearly 30 yard kickoff returns last week.

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This is truly a head vs heart type of prediction. My head really wants me to pick App by somewhere around 7 to 10 yards. Mostly because I see the Griz as young, untested, and a team that made errors against USD that they just cannot do on the road.

HOWEVER I see how Montana can win, our offense with its speed and pace will be hard for any team to keep up with. Add in some new wrinkles and App might get caught by a buzz-saw. Additionally we’ll work in Jordan Canada more which will add another weapon to the team stable. And I’ll take this O-line over almost any other FCS OL in the nation. The key points to win can be held by the Griz, the big question is how much can this team mature and be ready? We’ve played App twice… narrowly beat them twice… I say we do it again. Griz come home 2-0 on a huge wave of momentum winning the game 42-36.

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