Four story lines to watch at Griz fall camp
MISSOULA, Montana — The month of July usually means plenty of time at Flathead Lake for Bobby Hauck.
Montana’s head football can always tell when he’s chomping at the bit for fall camp to commence by the prevalence of conflict between him and his brother, former Griz All-American safety Tim Hauck. Once they start in on each other about who’s catching more fish or who puts the right amount of ice in the drink, Bobby knows his favorite time of year is right around the corner.
“I really noticed that when we started getting toward the second half of July, we start getting a little more ornery with each other, start arguing a little bit more,” Hauck said with a laugh at the Big Sky Kickoff media gathering in Spokane in July. “That’s the nature of the beast. You start getting cranky and ornery and that means it’s go time.”
Hauck’s first season back at his alma mater was trademarked by uncharacteristic meltdowns spurred on by prevalent turnovers and the inability to hold fourth quarter leads. Montana lost three straight home games for the first time since Washington-Grizzly Stadium opened in 1986.
All three home losses — 22-20 on a last-second field goal to Portland State, 49-21 to UC Davis after leading 21-13 late in the third quarter and 29-22 on a goal line stand by Montana State — came in heart-wrenching fashion. The Adam Eastwood fumble forced by MSU captains Grant Collins and Tucker Yates helped the Bobcats seal their third straight rivalry victory for the first time since 1985.
The victory also thrust Montana State into the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Montana meanwhile stood on the outside of the playoff picture for a third straight season, an unfathomable fate compared to Hauck’s first tenure, part of a run that saw the Griz make the playoffs 17 seasons in a row.
From 2003 until 2009, Hauck ripped off 80 wins in 97 games, dominating the Big Sky Conference to the tune of 47-6 and advancing to the FCS national title game in 2004, 2008 and 2009. Montana has not won a Big Sky title since 2011 and not officially since Hauck’s last season 10 years ago.
Montana finished at 6-5 overall in 2018, including just 4-4 in league play. Hauck only lost one Big Sky Conference game between 2006 and 2009.
Despite the vastly different levels of success between his first tenure and his first season back, Hauck is effusively optimistic about his team’s prospects entering 2019.
“I’m excited,” Hauck said. “Usually, I get to July and I’m looking for a few days off. But this year I’m really excited about the season. I could’ve started July 1. I really could have.
“I think we’ve made progress this off-season. In fact, I think it’s been a helluva off-season. Hopefully, that translates into good things.”