Quite the game! As I’d posted before, the UM v Cal Poly games are always exciting and this one might’ve been the most intense of them all.
I’ve seen games that I’d overall call “better” games in Wa Griz, 1994 vs McNeese, 2000 vs App, 2001 vs Idaho, 2009 vs SDSU, 2009 vs App. However this might have been one of the best finishes I’ve ever seen. It was a Hollywood ending. Griz lose a key piece to their offense early (Van), start ok but then fall behind, get totally snuffed out for while, then commit costly mistakes. Then, when all seemed lost a key senior blocks a fieldgoal. There’s a wild 2 minute drive. 4th and goal… TD! Into OT and the Griz score right away, then force a pick at the goal-line and it’s game over.
Cal Poly came to town with a solid plan on how to close down the Griz run blocking entirely, they attacked the ball, they pressured Johnson, controlled the clock, and held UM to just 50% efficiency in the red zone. All that and they still lost the game. That’s a tough pill to swallow. What I saw in this game that tipped the scales to Montana in the end were three things:
1. Winning on special teams. Think about how important both the blocked punt and blocked fieldgoal were on the outcome. Griz special teams kept this team in the game, both the blocks by Gamboa and Tripp were monumental efforts to get to the ball. Special Teams play was key in the win today.
2. Discipline and composure. I don’t think the 2012 Griz could have pulled off this feat. You could sense it halfway through the 4th in the stadium – the fans were giving up. The team never did. While the crowd intensity tapered off after several Griz 4th down stops, the defense kept at it and no one quit in the face of adversity. That fieldgoal for the Poly kicker should have been darn near automatic, but the Griz stood tall. The next Griz drive that would tie the game saw an offense finally click in the passing game, receivers fought for every yard, they operated the hurry up with very good precision. 4th and goal, no problem, execution, pass protection, and having faith in the receivers… got it done. This team did not panic.
3. Bend but don’t break defense. I doubt the defense wanted to give up 305 rushing yards and at times get shoved around. But at the end of the day the defense forced two turnovers on a team that rarely turns the ball over, held them to 14 points, and put the team in a position to win. Individual players on the defense played their hearts out, Matt Hermanson 18 tackles are you kidding me? Brock Coyle had some key plays and of course the pick that sealed it. JP and Tripp in double-digit tackles and each having some key plays. This defense might’ve given up more yards than they wanted but they got the job done where it counted, on the scoreboard.
There were things that frustrated me while I watched this game.
First of all the almost stubborn refusal to give up the outside sweep that was going nowhere. The playcalling had me pretty frustrated, I thought that the Griz had a chance to pass on this team but they just kept running for very little gain on 1st and 2nd down. I looked at the stats, the Griz averaged 2.4 yards per rush, that’s 3.1 yards lower than their previous average. I think there was a mix of issues, the O-line was not getting a big push at times it almost felt like we were watching the NAU game again. The plays as they unfolded seemed almost the same, time and time again. Poly was obviously dialed in and at times it seemed like they were in the huddle with the Griz, probably because the playcalling became very predictable at times. Finally there was almost a flat out refusal to mix it up and use Counts… that really baffled me. Canada was getting worn down and not very effective, why not mix it up, use Counts for some power runs?
Going beyond that the passing game needing all of the plays to be big/long plays or bust was getting under my skin. It was no shock that in the 2 minute drill was so effective with short/medium range passes. There was just one screen pass and it worked, but then never re-visited. Is there just a worry that the sort passing game doesn’t work for the Griz? I don’t get it.
It’s a lot easier to wash away the ugly of this game when it’s a win against a pretty good team. There’s some evaluation that needs to be done for improvement, tackling at times was shaky, pass coverage by our linebackers was an issue, run blocking… oh boy… Some of this is credit to Poly, but it’s going to have to be reviewed and addressed moving forward
The Poly defense really impressed me, their D-line was winning the day until the 4th quarter and suddenly our O-line flipped a switch and protected much better. Hats off to the Mustangs on their hard fought game. It doesn’t get any easier for the Mustangs but I see them playing the spoiler to possibly NAU or EWU who they both host at home.
The two most concerning injuries to me were those to Van and Goodwin. I saw Chief give some fans a thumbs up when he was leaving the field after the game. I was told Warren also might’ve been hurt on that last drive as well. Also I don’t think Takai played much at all, he’s listed as a participant but it seemed Kidder played most of the game.
It was an exciting way to finish the game. The Griz are now 6-1 and 3-1 in conference, looking up at NAU, EWU, Sac, and MSU – three of those four who they still have yet to play.
Rest up Griz, one of the better teams with statistically one of the best and most efficient QBs in the nation is coming to town this weekend.