Griz use throwback rushing effort to bury Eagles

MISSOULA, Montana — The last time Bobby Hauck coached against Eastern Washington, Chase Reynolds pounded in a one-yard go-ahead touchdown with one minutes, 18 seconds to go to lift the Grizzlies to a 41-34 victory on October 17 of 2009, the sixth win during a 14-game winning streak during Hauck’s final season in his first tenure leading the Montana Grizzlies.

In Hauck’s first season back at Montana last fall, the unbalanced schedule of the Big Sky Conference steered the Griz away from an Eastern Washington team that, like the 2009 Grizzlies, raced all the way to the FCS national title game in 2018.

Saturday in Missoula, for stretches it looked like 2009 all over again. Leading up to the renewal of the rivalry, Hauck predicted that the team that ran the ball and stopped the run most effectively would win the day. In front of 24,072 who braved the wintery conditions, the Griz went to the ground early and often, giving supporters flashbacks that “Bobby Ball” might be back in Missoula.

 No. 10 Montana rushed for 254 yards and gave up just 101, including 131 yards and three touchdowns from junior running back Marcus Knight in UM’s favor and 79 more bruising yards to seal the game from true freshman Nick Ostmo on the way to a 34-17 victory over suddenly struggling EWU on Saturday afternoon in Missoula. 

Montana running back Marcus Knight (21) breaks through Eastern Washington defenders for a touchdown Saturday/by Brooks Nuanez

“It’s nice to be right once in awhile,” Hauck said with a grin. “That’s good, hard-nosed football. It looked like late fall in the Northern Rockies out there early in the game. You’ve got to be able to run the ball here or you are not going to win late in the season. You have to be able to stop it because the other team is trying to do it.

“We did a good job on both sides of that equation. I really liked how our defense swarmed to both sides of the ball. And I really liked how our offense did the same.”

The win moves Montana to 3-1 in Big Sky Conference play, 6-2 overall entering the final month of the regular-season. The victory also helps the Griz wash the bad taste of last week’s 49-22 loss at No. 15 Sacramento State last week. And it keeps the in the mix for their first Big Sky title since, coincidentally, 2009.

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