Story by Chad Dundas
The scientific name for the disease is grizmania nervosa, a condition that currently afflicts a growing number of diehard University of Montana football fans.
Symptoms include: Sweaty palms, nausea and pounding headache brought on by screaming at the television. If left untreated, the illness can lead to waves of sudden panic, depression and rampant Monday morning quarterbacking.
Though the malady has been fairly common around these parts since at least the turn of the 21st century, it’s difficult to recall another time when it seemed as epidemic as right now.
With the suddenly third-ranked Grizzlies coming off what UM radio broadcaster Mick Holien best described as an “anemic,” win over Sacramento State on Saturday, there is a palpable sense of unease in Griz Nation. A Monday afternoon jaunt around the university’s unofficial Internet message board revealed subject threads with titles like, “Inept Offense,” “Quarterback Change,” and “Everything Must Go.”
Yikes. It makes you wonder what kind of Internet heck would break loose if Montana actually lost a game.
In all fairness, there are some positive discussions going on Online as well, but when the usually unwavering fanatics at egriz.com start to trend negative about the football team, it’s not a good sign.
To their credit, the Griz are playing it cool – they’re still undefeated after all – and during Tuesday’s press conference both offensive and defensive players conceded there have been hiccups, but say there are no major problems.
Head coach Bobby Hauck bristled when the media finally got around to asking him if he was happy with the way the team was playing.
Q: Are you pleased with your offense’s productivity thus far?
BH: In terms of what, wins and losses? I’m not going to trade a loss for a yard, I’m not going to trade a point for 10 yards, that’s for sure. I mean, I’m not sure where you’re going with the question.
Q: Just in terms of total offensive numbers, I suppose.
BH: I’m not into numbers except the W in the left-hand column, but we didn’t play well enough on offense last week and that’s my job to make sure that improves this week. I’ve got to do a better job coaching and we need to play better.
So, some of the guys on egriz.com think the sky is falling, while the Griz say everything is fine. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Montana hasn’t looked great since the beginning of conference play. The numbers, whether anybody is into them or not, say UM has the No. 8 offense in the Big Sky, rating dead last in passing and second-to-last in rushing.
But things are also far, far from terrible.
The defense (luckily) continues to shine. The Griz are No. 2 in scoring D in the nation. Kroy Biermann – still arguably the best player in the conference – is lingering around the top in sacks and Torrey Thomas is second in interceptions.
Montana’s bye week also means its players have one fewer game than some of the other guys on the list.
This year still has a chance to turn out like 2004, when Montana sputtered to 6-2 during its first eight games – including losses to Sam Houston State and Portland State – before ripping off six straight wins (all of them by double digits) and ultimately bowing to James Madison in the Division I-AA national championship game.
Things may not be perfect, or even pretty, but at 6-0 the Griz have already assured their umpteenth consecutive winning season and have hapless Northern Colorado as a tune-up this week before the meat of the Big Sky season really begins.
For now, it might be healthy for everybody if we all just take a nice, deep breath. Let’s wait and see how things shake out in December. Or at least the next couple of weeks.