Griz Don't Want to be Embarrassed but Will They?

The last time the Montana Grizzlies played the Oregon Ducks, most of the current players on both rosters were in grade school. On September 11, 1993, in front of 33,183 fans at Autzen Stadium on a warm, cloudy day, Oregon had jumped out to halftime lead when a sophomore quarterback named Dave Dickenson came in and nearly upset the Ducks.

Trailing 20-9 at halftime, Montana out-scored the Ducks 21-7 in the final half, when Dickenson, now in the Canadian Football League, went 20-of-32 for 236 yards and two scores. Oregon may have ended up beating Montana 35-30, however Montana won the game of statistics. The Grizzlies had 28 first downs to the Ducks' 26. Montana rushed 30 times for 140 yards and Oregon kept the ball on the ground 41 times for 174 yards. Montana was 33-of-57 for 390 yards and the Ducks were 21-of-28 for 326 yards.

On Saturday though, Montana Head Coach Bobby Hauck is hoping his team will be at least competitive and will not get blown off the field by the high powered Ducks. Montana, a Division I-AA team and perennial powerhouse in the Big Sky Conference is heading to Eugene this Saturday for its seventh game against a Pac-10 opponent since Arizona and Arizona State joined the Pac-8 to form the Pac-10. Division I programs like Oregon can carry 85 scholarship players on the roster while Division I-AA programs are limited to 65. The difference between the players at least on paper appears to be in size. For example the Ducks will have a starting offensive line that averages 6-4.5 and 308 pounds. The Grizzles will be a bit taller on average at 6-5.5 but will weigh in at an average of 287 pounds and add someone like Oregon's junior defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (6-5, 338) and the mismatches are very evident. Plus throw in Duck quarterback Kellen Clemens, who was name Pac-10 Player of the Week for his performance against Houston last week, and the Grizzlies' coaching staff see some problems.

"Kellen Clemens is one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-10," said Hauck. "They (Oregon) have great players on offense and they have great players on defense, and they have speed everywhere, both on offense and defense, and in their return game -- and that's going to be tough for us to handle."

Montana is led by junior running back Lex Hilliard, 6-0, 220, who had 108 yards of rushing on 14 carries last week against Fort Lewis College. Hilliard also had a 34-yard reception for a score in the 55-0 shutout over Fort Lewis, a Division II team. The effort was Hilliard's fifth 100-yard plus game in his career at Montana. Hilliard is a Walter Payton Award candidate and eighth on Montana's all-time list for rushing with 1,670 yards. Oregon's head coach Mike Bellotti thinks that Hilliard is a pretty good football player and offered a hint of what might happen on Saturday.

"He's good, he's big, he's physical, he's fast," Bellotti observed of Hilliard. "They (Montana) direct snap the ball to him sometimes."

Bellotti thinks that the Montana and Oregon's offense are very similar and that might be an advantage for the Ducks as the Oregon defenders have practiced against the Oregon offense all fall camp. Besides Hilliard, Montana also has an athletic quarterback and a big receiver that can cause problems. Quarterback Jason Washington, 6-2, 195, a junior transfer from Bowling Green, was 10-of-17 for 179 yards and two touchdowns passes last week. He also rushed eight times for 18 yards. Senior wide receiver Jon Talmage, 6-4, 205, had four catches for a game-high 107 yards. It was the fifth time he has had more than 100 receiving yards in a game. However, Bellotti is impressed with something more with the Grizzlies.

"I'm impressed with the talent level but maybe more than the talent level is the way they play, with great energy," commented Bellotti about Montana.

Oregon has an overall lead in head-to-head competition with Montana, winning six times and tying once. The series stared in 1928 with a 31-6 Oregon win. In 1934 the Ducks won 13-0. In 1940 Oregon prevailed 38-0 and in 1946 Oregon again won 34-0. Four years later in 1950 Oregon was victorious 21-13. The two teams tied in 1952 at 14.

Since the Pac-10 was formed, Montana is 1-5 against Pac-10 teams with the sole win coming in 1996 against Oregon State winning 35-14 at Corvallis.

Last week Montana's blowout didn't allow them to do some of things they wanted. For example Hauck wanted to get more snaps for his back up freshman quarterback Cole Bergquist, 6-2, 200, but when the game got out of hand, Hauck decided to shelve the passing game. This week the situation could be reversed and it may be Oregon's running game in the second half against Montana's passing game.

The last time Montana was involved in a shut out was in 2003, beating Sacramento State, 26-0. (edited to reflect Montana winning the game)

Hauck is taking a cautious look at the game that should be in front of a raucous crowd at Autzen Stadium expected to be near 58,000, starving for the Ducks to return to their winning ways after a disappointing 5-6 record last season.

"It's a tough match up for us," admitted Hauck about the Oregon game. "We want to go in and try to be competitive. We certainly don't want to go there and be embarrassed, but they're the type of team that can really hang it on people, and that's a big worry for us."

During questioning in Tuesday's media conference, Bellotti thought that his players may not remember the 1993 game, but he does, he was the offensive coordinator for the Ducks then.

Montana presents a team with little to lose and much to gain by upsetting the Ducks at home. Montana is the back-to-back Big Sky champion and two-time Division 1-AA champions and have a tradition of winning. The are now the No. 3 ranked 1-AA team. The Ducks started off slowly against Houston last week and some believe that Montana is as good as Houston. Time certainly will tell about that, but if Oregon does not want to have a repeat performance of the 1993 game, then the mismatches Hauck worries about must be present on Saturday afternoon.

The game will not be televised nor streamed live on Ozone. The game will be carried on the Oregon Sports Network with Jerry Allen, Mike Jorgensen and Bobby DeBisschop. The game will be televised on a delayed basis by OSN with Joe Giansante and Anthony Newman.

Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

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