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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


EWU-Montana Q&A with Missoulian beat writer

1)    Montana hasn’t been a very good road team in Big Sky play, going 0-2 so far. Why do you think that is?
The coaching staff has pointed to a lack of energy away from home, that the team feeds off the frenzy inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium but can't manufacture that on their own when faced with a road environment. I don't know if it's quite that stark of a situation. The Griz laid an egg, yes, at Northern Arizona last week but played well in a one-point loss at Cal Poly in September and also beat then-third-ranked Northern Iowa on the road early in the season.

2)    How much has it meant to the Griz offense to have Brady Gustafson healthy?
It's been everything. Gustafson has looked like the real deal the past month -- with the exception of stretches of the NAU game -- and the quarterback is truly the reason this Montana offense can do what it does. Quick passes and smart decisions turn this spread team into a clock eater, too. Last year with three QBs in because of multiple injuries, coach Stitt threw out half his playbook. We're seeing that other half this year.

3)    Eastern views Montana as its main rival. Given the Eagles’ recent success, how important is this game in the minds of fans?
I think Montana fans see this is a major rivalry game too. It helps that it's so close in proximity. There's two games a year you circle if you live in Missoula: Montana State and, only to a slightly lesser degree, Eastern Washington.

4)    Can you compare Eastern QB Gage Gubrud to anyone the Griz have faced so far this year?
Not this year. The Griz have faced a couple run-first quarterbacks, a couple pocket passers, but really no QB that throws the way Gubrud and Eastern do with the same danger to run. NAU's Case Cookus last year is probably the closest, a guy who can run but is still a pass-first threat.

5)    Final score prediction?
Montana 45, Eastern 42. The Grizzlies' defense is far superior to EWU's. They got exposed some last week at Northern Arizona, but I think they'll use that as a learning too and perform better this week. They don't need to be great, just better the way the Eagles play defense.


Jim Allen
Jim Allen joined The Spokesman-Review in 1984. He currently covers K-12 education and women's basketball.

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