MISSOULA — Two days removed from their game against the No. 7 Washington Huskies, the Montana Grizzlies are more confident about their game than they were immediately after.
In Montana coach Bob Stitt's weekly Monday news conference, he spent some time discussing the major takeaways for him from the Pac-12 match-up.
Some of the players on the defensive side who stood out to him were safeties Justin Strong and Josh Sandry, and defensive linemen David Shaw and Tucker Schye.
"A lot of things to be proud of on that side of the ball, even though we gave up a lot of points," Stitt said. "A lot of that athleticism just takes over. You can be in the right place and do what you're supposed to be doing and you take athletes that are superior and sometimes they just make some plays. I think we'll be a better defense because of playing against that type of offense."
On the offensive side of the ball, Stitt mentioned the efforts of wide receiver Josh Horner, running back Jeremy Calhoun and offensive linemen Robert Luke and Cooper Sprunk.
"I thought our offensive line played really well," Stitt said. "In the stats, we gave up five sacks but two of them were at the very end when we had some backups in. Really I think the O-line only gave up one sack all day. The two other ones were on the running backs. Our running back didn't step up and pick it up, so I really felt like the O-line did really well and that's what I was really worried about.
"Their D-Line was very, very good and our guys on the inside, Robert Luke had a very good game and Cooper Sprunk played pretty well in there. Those are the things we've talked about all week was those two D-tackles and they did a nice job."
Typically, teams on the receiving end of a more than 50-point loss have tattered confidence, but not Montana.
The game didn't have an impact on how the Grizzlies see themselves.
"I can promise you that this game didn't damage anyone's confidence on this team," QB Reese Phillips said. "The score is unfortunate but we did do a lot of good things. A lot of times, like I said, they were just making plays. They were really good. They're a real deal playoff team. Our confidence is not gonna fall. It's gonna be the same and it should be. We played pretty well and we did some good things."
One of the biggest concerns playing a team like Washington is the potential for injuries.
Coming out of the game, Stitt addressed some minor injuries.
Wide receiver Justin Calhoun rolled an ankle.
"He's gonna be OK, but he was limited in the game," Stitt said.
Safety Lewis Cowans also rolled his ankle. No other players were mentioned by name.
"All the things that happened in that game as far as injuries will be something that by the end of the week I think everybody's gonna be ready to go," Stitt said. "Especially they'll be healthy for Eastern. The first three games, you want to be playing your best football and be as healthy as possible. We're gonna be smart with guys this week and make sure we're 100 percent full go for Eastern."
Early thoughts on Savannah State
Stitt hadn't done too much prep work for Saturday's clash with Savannah State of Savannah, Georgia, as of Monday afternoon, but he did give a brief overview on what the Tigers are about.
Unlike Montana, Savannah State has played only one game this season — on the receiving end of a 54-7 romp by Appalachian State on Saturday.
"You look at it and the score was very lopsided by they're a much better team than they were last year," Stitt said. "I think you're gonna see even more improvement with their football team between the first and the second game."
Stitt said Savannah State's option offense is similar to what Northern Iowa or Montana State ran last season.
"You just gotta get ready for their scheme and get ready to play very, very good football," Stitt said. "We need to go and get after it early. We've got to start picking up some momentum. ... We really need to clean it up and start getting some big time confidence and really be able to attack on both sides of the ball."
Eyes on Eastern
Even though Montana plays Savannah State this weekend, some of the focus has shifted to Eastern Washington.
The Griz host the Eagles in their first Big Sky Conference game on Sept. 23.
"The Big Sky is everything," Stitt said. "You gotta win those games. You go beat Washington and lose to Eastern Washington? That doesn't help us. That is the goal. That game is everything that we're working towards and then we'll think about the next one and the next one and the next one. But that game is everything. Everything we do is preparing to go play those guys."