#6 Montana FCS Football 2021 Preview

Montana Grizzlies
Overall Rank: #6
#1 Big Sky
 Montana Logo
Montana will be looking to get back to the old ways of Coach Bobby Hauck. He led Montana to seven straight Big Sky titles from 2003 to 2009. Since his return in 2018, the Grizzlies have finished 6-5 and then 10-4 in 2019 with a nice run to the quarterfinals of the playoffs. In the spring the Grizzlies played just two games, crushing Central Washington and Portland State.
2020-21 Record: 2-0, 0-0
2020-21 Postseason: None
Coach: Bobby Hauck (98-26 at Montana, 112-74 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Timm Rosenbach
Defensive Coordinator: Kent Baer
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Xavier Harris, RB, 148 yards
Passing: Cam Humphrey, QB, 472 yards
Receiving: Gabe Sulser, WR, 145 yards
Tackles: Robby Hauck, S, 12
Sacks: Jace Lewis, LB, 0.5; Marcus Welnel, LB, 0.5
Interceptions: 3 tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: RB Nick Ostmo, WR Samuel Akem, OL Conlan Beaver
Key Losses: None
Cam Humphrey made three starts in 2019 relieving an injured Dalton Sneed. He then started two games in the spring, racking up 472 yards and five touchdowns in those two contests. Humphrey only has five starts under his belt, but he has been around for a while now and should be a very capable Big Sky quarterback. Losing Samori Toure and his 87 catches from the 2019 hurts, but there are plenty of places for Humphrey to throw the ball. Samuel Akem caught 59 passes for 848 yards and five touchdowns in 2019 and Gabe Sulser emerged as a big play threat in the spring, catching a team high eight passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Xavier Harris and Nick Ostmo proved to be more than capable running backs in the spring. They will be tested a lot more this time around.
Allowing an average of 5.0 points per game in a season is pretty good even if the season is just two games long. Obviously they will not be able to keep that up during a, presumably, full slate of games, but this will be a very good group. The unit will be led by All-Everything linebacker Jace Lewis. In 2019 he tallied 131 tackles with 4.5 sacks, 12.0 tackles-for-loss, four pass break-ups, six quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. Robby Hauck is the star of the secondary. He was right behind Lewis in tackles in 2019 with 129. Gavin Robertson is also an experienced defensive back and recorded 72 tackles with two interceptions in 2019. If players like Alex Gubner can pick up where they left off in 2019, the defensive front will be in good shape too. Gubner recorded 36 tackles and 2.5 sacks and had an amazing four interceptions, which was second best in the Big Sky. It is not everyday a defensive tackle can do that.
The Bottom Line:
Montana may come out of the gate a little bit slower than most of the Big Sky that is coming off a full season, or so, in the spring. However, it may not take long before that rest pays off. The schedule could be worse and it will likely be an October 2nd game at Eastern Washington that begins to sort out the top of the Big Sky. There are half a dozen Big Sky teams with very legitimate expectations of reaching the playoffs this season so there may not be too much margin for error for this Montana team.
Projected Postseason:  FCS Playoffs
2020-21 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 219.5 (9th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 296.5 (10, 3)
Total Offense: 516.0 (5, 2)
Scoring Offense: 53.5 (1, 1)
Rushing Defense: 74.5 (4, 1)
Pass Defense: 157.0 (9, 1)
Total Defense: 231.5 (3, 1)
Scoring Defense: 5.0 (1, 1)
Turnover Margin: 1.50 (2, 1)
Sacks: 0.50 (93, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 0.00 (1, 1)