#12 Montana FCS Football 2019 Preview

Montana Grizzlies
Overall Rank: #12
#4 Big Sky
 Montana Logo
Coach Bobby Hauck returned to Montana last season with high expectations. And why would they not be high? He only led the Grizzlies to seven conference titles during his seven seasons between 2003 and 2009. And the 2018 campaign started very well with a win over Northern Iowa and a 4-1 start. But things went bad after that and the Grizzlies lost four of their last six.
2018 Record: 6-5, 4-4
2018 Postseason: None
Coach: Bobby Hauck (84-20 at Montana, 99-70 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Timm Rosenbach
Defensive Coordinator: Kent Baer
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Dalton Sneed, QB, 675 yards
Passing: Dalton Sneed, QB, 2,723 yards
Receiving: Samuel Akem, WR, 879 yards
Tackles: Dante Olson, LB, 151
Sacks: Dante Olson, LB, 6.0
Interceptions: Josh Sandry, S, 2; Dante Olson, LB, 2; Dareon Nash, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Adam Eastwood, WR Jerry Louie-McGee, WR Samori Toure, S Robby Hauck, CB Justin Calhoun, LB Jace Lewis, DT Jesse Sims
Key Losses: WR Keenan Curran, LB Josh Buss, S Reid Miller
With a new system, it took some time for the pieces to come together. Another offseason of work should help. And so will a lot of players with starting experience. Dalton Sneed is a dynamic quarterback who should turn this into one of the best offenses in the Big Sky. Sneed threw for 2,723 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 675 yards and six more scores. Samuel Akem will again be Sneed’s favorite target downfield. Akem caught 59 passes for 879 yards and 13 touchdowns. Jerry Louie-McGee and Samori Toure are also very productive receivers and combined to catch 79 passes for 891 yards last season. Montana was not very productive running the ball as a team, but top rusher Adam Eastwood returns after tallying 514 yards and nine rushing touchdowns.
There is a lot of room to improve on the defensive side of the ball. Dante Olson is a good place to start. The linebacker is one of the best defensive players in the FCS and last season he recorded 151 tackles, 6.0 sacks and two interceptions. He will be joined by Jace Lewis to form a very good group of linebackers. The secondary is led by Robby Hauck, who tallied 95 tackles in 2018. Josh Sandry and Justin Calhoun are also back and highlight a group that is now very experienced. After ranking ninth in the Big Sky in pass defense though, the unit needs to be much more consistent.
The Bottom Line:
The season starts with a very intriguing trip to South Dakota. The loser of that contest will have to make up some ground when it comes to reaching the playoffs. A month later the Grizzlies open their conference slate with a trip to UC Davis. Other Big Sky favorites, Eastern Washington and Weber State, have to come to Missoula. If Montana’s defense can keep those games close, the offense has the ability to pull off a few very big wins this season.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2018 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 164.2 (59th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 271.7 (22, 4)
Total Offense: 435.9 (26, 4)
Scoring Offense: 33.9 (19, 4)
Rushing Defense: 179.2 (63, 3)
Pass Defense: 238.1 (93, 9)
Total Defense: 417.3 (80, 5)
Scoring Defense: 28.5 (67, 5)
Turnover Margin: -0.27 (80, 9)
Sacks: 2.18 (47, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.27 (81, 9)