When one thinks of the Montana football program, one word that comes to Aaron Best’s mind is longevity.
“Montana has been history for quite some time now,” Best, the East Washington coach said Tuesday, “and we at the Big Sky Conference have always admired the Montanas of the world.”
For good reason: Montana has won 15 Big Sky championships since 1993.
Still, the Grizzlies are mired in a lull: the most recent of these titles came out in 2009, which was Bobby Hauck’s final year during his previous stint at his alma mater.
But Hauck – who will lead the Grizzlies to fourth place (3-0, 1-0 Big Sky) on Roos Field to face the sixth-place Eagles (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday night – is back for a few years. , and it looks like after a decade of relative mediocrity, he might have a championship-level squad again.
âCoach Hauck did a great job,â said Best. “He did a great job when he was there the first time around, and he picked up where he left off.”
Hauck first coached the Grizzlies from 2003 to 2009, and in each of those seven years Montana won at least a share of the Big Sky Championship. Three of those years, the Grizzlies reached the FCS title game, losing each time.
Then Hauck left. He first became the head coach of the UNLV, but during his five years there the Rebels went 15-49 with just one winning season.
After that, he served as the San Diego State Special Teams Coordinator, a position he held from 2015 to 2017.
During that streak, three men coached the Grizzlies – Robin Pflugrad, Mick Delaney and Bob Stitt. All of them had winning records overall, but they never won a conference title and they never made it past the second round of the FCS playoffs.
When the Grizzlies chose to seek a new coach in 2017, athletic director Kent Haslam identified Hauck as a candidate.
âI think it was a good timing alignment,â Haslam said. âWe had just made a change (at the head coach), and Bobby was at San Diego State, so it all lined up perfectly. Obviously, his record speaks for itself.
Hauck’s teams went 80-17 in his first seven years in Montana. Since the start of the 2018 season, the Grizzlies are 21-9. Between his time at UNLV and Montana, Hauck’s 116 wins as a head coach are the second among active Big Sky coaches, behind Dan Hawkins of UC Davis, who has 138 wins over the course of his 20-season career.
Examining why Hauck was so successful and why he agreed to return, Haslam said that one factor is that Hauck was born in Missoula and attended the University of Montana, although he did not play at the University of Montana. college football, neither there nor elsewhere.
That, Haslam said, and Hauck is an exceptional motivator and coach.
âHe really has a knack for taking everything away from people that they can give,â Haslam said. âSimply put: he’s a very good coach, a very good teacher.
âHe’s very competitive in everything he does, and he’s demanding and very meticulous in what he does. He demands this of all with whom he associates.
A feat that Hauck often accomplished in his first training streak: he beat Eastern Washington six times out of seven.
From 2010 to 2017, Eastern Washington went 7-2 against Montana.
In 2019, with Hauck back at the helm, Montana beat Eastern 34-17.
Montana State Prepares for Renovated Northern Colorado
Isaiah Ifanse has not been named to the All-Big Sky preseason squad, but the Montana state backer is pushing for his inclusion in that team’s end-of-season version.
The Bobcats junior running back carried 30 times for 217 yards and one touchdown in his team’s 30-17 win over Portland State last week. Ifanse has 489 rushing yards leading Big Sky in four games; EWU running back Dennis Merritt is second with 381.
“Davis Alexander is a very good player,” said Montana State freshman Brent Vigen of Portland State quarterback, who is second in the conference behind EWU’s Eric Barriere for the passing yards. “Isaiah Ifanse is also a very good player.”
The 11th-ranked Bobcats (3-1, 1-0) travel to northern Colorado on Saturday, which is 2-2 overall and 1-0 in Big Sky after beating northern Arizona in overtime last week.
Northern Colorado hired coach Ed McCaffrey after the 2019 season, but because the Bears retired from the 2020-21 season – and also because of roster turnover – Vigen said the this year was different from the UNC team that went 2-6 in Big Sky games two seasons ago.
âThey are really still in the process of creating their identity,â said Vigen. âGetting a Big Sky win like that is definitely something that creates momentum.
âThey have multiple transfers from a lot of different programs. … Even to think that something looks like what they were in 19 would be wrong.
The Bears host Eastern Washington on October 9; Eastern Washington will face Montana State on November 6 at Roos Field.
UC Davis takes big win at Weber State
The Big Sky have a third team ranked in the top eight in the Stats Perform FCS poll this week – 4-0 UC Davis.
The Aggies gained four places, at No. 8, after beating the then No. 14 Weber State 17-14, in Ogden, Utah, on a last-minute touchdown on Saturday.
The home loss was Weber State’s first to a Big Sky opponent since a 32-16 loss to Southern Utah on Oct. 14, 2017, ending a 13-game winning streak at home in conference games. .
The favorite to win the Big Sky in the preseason polls, Weber State is down to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in Big Sky games this season. His other losses came in Utah and at home to James Madison, who is ranked third in the Stats poll.
UC Davis hosts Idaho (1-2, 0-0) on Saturday, while Weber State visits Cal Poly (1-3, 0-1).