Griz are hitting the road in a monumental “must-win” game to avoid going 0-2 in conference, falling out of the top 25, and sitting at 2-3. This team has faced challenges before and needs to come together this week and get out of EWU with a win. It’ll be a tall order, as EWU looks like one of the best in the conference, if not the FCS. It’s go time Griz, lets do this:

Record: 2-1

20-3 win vs Idaho: Marking the first of their two FBS games EWU shut down UI and held them under 200 yards. It wasn’t super pretty for EWU but they got it done when needed. EWU’s defense was pretty solid, only allowing UI to go 2-14 on 3rd down and forcing 2 turnovers.

24-20 loss vs Washington State: EWU gave up some early ground but adjusted and held Wazzu to no points in the 2nd half. Wazzu had chances but missed a fieldgoal, lost a fumble, and tossed a pick. Meanwhile EWU tossed 2 picks of their own and put the ball on the ground 3 times although they didn’t lose any fumbles. EWU passed for nearly 400 yards. They scored to get within 4 (PAT was blocked) with 2:17 left, they forced Wazzu to punt and got all the way back to the WSU 32 but an endzone pass went incomplete and the clock ran out.

32-26 win vs Weber State: WSU who is now 0-4 (granted against Fresno, BYU, McNeese, & EWU) made a furious comeback but fell short. EWU was up 20-3, and then 29-11. Weebz made it 29-19 with a 2-pt conversion, EWU answered with a field goal, then Weber scored again to make it 32-26 with 3:43 left in the game. Weber held EWU and forced them to punt but once crossing mid-field with 40 seconds left in the game EWU sacked WSU’s QB Hoke and forced a fumble, game over. Weber had some passing success with 285 passing yards. Meanwhile EWU had a great balanced attack, 206 rushing and 241 passing. Also the EWU defense forced 3 turnovers.

Players to watch:

#2 Kyle Padron – the 6-2 QB that we’ll see out there who transferred from SMU after beating out last year’s Payton winner Bo Levi Mitchell a few years earlier. Padron this year is averaging about 250 yards per game but his completion % is pretty low at 48%. 4 TDs and 4 Ints so far this year. Dude will run a little bit too, so watch for that.

#1 Brandon Kaufman – stud WR for the Eags (tall guy too at 6-5), and only a junior. He’s got 416 yards already this season. Not the best amount of yards but he’s only played 3 games when compared to others with 4 games, he’s got the best per game average at 140 yards per game. 3 TDs this year for Kaufman.

#3 Greg Herd – A 6-3 WR, Herd has 125 yards receiving this year, he gets a lot of targets, not a ton of home-run catches yet and no TDs but quite a few looks. We’ll see Herd returning kicks as well, he’s got a longer return as well with a best of 50 yards.

#20 Jordan Talley – a shorter running back that’s got just about 200 yards and 3 TDs this season, he’s got a few pass catches as well. He gets about 60% of the handoffs in EWU’s system. The other back we’ll see is #22 Quincy Forte who has 150 yards this year and 1 TD.

#11 Nicholas Edwards – The other tall WR in the team Edwards has had a bit of a quiet start, 124 yards and no TDs this year, just 7 catches. He hurt his knee against Weber, may be out.

#39 Ronnie Hamlin – SLB who is leading the team in tackles with 25, he’s got a TFL and 2 pass breakups.

#31 TJ Lee III – 19 tackles, 1 sack, 1 int, and 1 forced fumble for Lee. Probably the best corner in the Big Sky, I believe he was the guy who bumped out Houston Roots to land 1st team all-conference beside Tru last season.

#91 Jerry Ceja – Leading the team with 3 sacks, 4 TFL, and 2 QB hits. He’s got 8 tackles this season.

#10 Zach Johnson – finally a senior, seems like he’s been with EWU forever. Makes up their solid LB corps. 14 tackles so far this season. Listed as questionable with a hammy injury from last week.

General Stats:

– A big surprise (at least to me) EWU’s defense this year, they’re the best scoring defense in the league, allowing just 17.7 per game. Their D is allowing 112 rushing yards per game and 230 passing yards per game. Montana is rushing for 207 per game and passing for 225 per game.

– Additionally EWU is +3 today, and has not yet lost a fumble this season (meanwhile UM is -8, gross).

– EWU’s offense is averaging 153 rushing per game and 293 passing yards per game while UM’s defense is allowing 127 rush yards per game and 223 pass yards per game.

– Looking at EWU’s scoring by quarter shows they score early and cool off in the 2nd half. Meanwhile their defense has only allowed 23 points the whole year this 2nd half (compare to UM who has allowed 69 points in the 2nd half).

– EWU tends to fizzle a bit in the redzone, only 6-12 getting TDs (UM’s defense allows TDs 75% of the time). On the other side EWU’s defense allows TDs in the RZ 73% of the time and UM scores TDs 71% of the time.

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Keys to a Grizzly victory:

– EWU’s an interesting team, full of talent but not the best showing when getting TDs in the red zone, scoring offense is pretty low compared to the rest of the league (8th) and they’re not the best at picking up 1st downs. The Griz can capitalize on this if they can execute better than we saw last week and put some points on the board while EWU goes off and on.

– Mick Delaney talked about his recipe to win games, run the ball, and stop them from running. EWU’s offense will attempt to establish the ground-game, if our defense can take that away it’ll help, as they run the ball more than you’d expect. Additionally they’ve got a great rush defense – we’ll need to wear them down.

– Trent McKinney needs to make the right reads in zone, thinking back to the App road game, how many times did he give the ball for Peter or Dan to lose a few yards as App over-loaded that side of the field?

– EWU will look at the NAU tapes and see that in the 2nd half rushing 5 or 6 led to Trent’s INTs. Gotta counter-act that, short screens, keep the RB in to protect, draw plays, etc. EWU will bring the rush big time as they can leave their corners out on an island.

– I’d appreciate it if our safeties could do… something. Padron has 4 picks this year and it seems like it would be great timing for our secondary to get its first pick (or more) of the season. We need to accept that they’ll get beat a few times, hopefully they can help in run-support and not get beat… too much?

– Another interesting battle to watch unfold will be our pass rush vs their protection. EWU’s Oline is really good and has only allowed 4 sacks, meanwhile the Griz defense leads the league with 12 sacks. Call me crazy but I’m thinking this will be a breakout game for Tyrone Holmes.

– Rosenbach needs to call a better game, if the aggressive offense is working – don’t take your foot off the gas. Keep McKinney confident, and if he gets rattled work him back in and rebuilt that confidence.

– Do your 1/11th. I didn’t like seeing players over-pursuing, yelling at each other after plays, and making big errors on the field last week. These guys know their stuff and I’m sure in review this week they’ve been working on this and hopefully we’ll see them come back out and work as a team and not 11 individuals trying to do it all.

– Win the turnover battle, will be real tough to do. EWU makes mistakes, but we need to limit ours.

– Obviously EWU is going to throw a wrinkle at the Griz with this Adams kid at QB as well. He caught Weber on their heels and can run. When he’s out there the Griz D needs to be ready for him as a mobile QB that can throw as well.

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As I look at this, EWU hosts us in their home opener, they have the better offense and the better defense. They’re ranked #9 in the FCS. The odds are stacked tall against a Griz team that looked really bad last week in the 2nd half of the NAU game. However If we see the Griz team that scored 24 unanswered points this game could be a real barn-burner.

So, if we see the 1st half vs NAU Griz, I think they’ll win 38-35.

If we see the 2nd half vs NAU Griz, EWU will win big, I’ll say 48-17.

This Griz team I’m sure has examined themselves and will come to EWU prepared. The NAU loss should be a motivator. As should the 2010 loss on this very same field for many of our guys who either played in or watched that frustrating game. Padron has already in the summer tweeted about his dislike for people in Montana. There’s lots of motivation and bad blood between these two teams. The Griz will need to rise above the emotion in this game and not let their own errors do them in.

Which Griz team will show up? I wish I knew, I hope it’s the one we saw shut down NAU for most of the first half and put up some points on the board. That team can win lots of games this year, and it’s the one we’ll need this Saturday.

Go Griz!

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