Bringing him down

Montana's Randy Rodriguez, left, and Evan Epperly tackle North Dakota's John Santiago earlier this season.

TOM BAUER, Missoulian

OGDEN, Utah — Of all Montana football's position groups, the youngest and least experienced is the Griz secondary. 

With the suspension of senior free safety Justin Strong, the disparity grows even further. 

Strong is suspended for the next two games — Saturday's game at Weber and next week's home game against Northern Arizona — after being arrested during the bye week in connection to an assault in Pullman, Washington. 

Without Strong, the next man up at free safety is Evan Epperly, who started against Valparaiso while Strong was nursing a broken thumb. Epperly, a 5-foot-10, 197-pound junior from Kalispell gets his second career start on Saturday.

He has 17 tackles on the season — good enough for 12th on the team — an interception, two pass defenses and a pass breakup. 

When Weber State's run offense elects to pass, look for Wildcat quarterback Stefan Cantwell to target Epperly. 

Here are four other things to watch for in Montana's penultimate road game of the regular season:

Red zone matchup: Montana's near-perfection in the red zone this season will be tested against Weber State.

Montana is the No. 1 team in the country in red zone offense, scoring on 31 of 32 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line. The only time Montana didn't bring home points while in scoring position was against North Dakota when what would have been a sure-fire 26-yard field goal by Brandon Purdy was blocked. 

On the flip side, Weber State is the No. 1 team in the country in red zone defense, allowing opposing teams to score only 10 times out of 16 chances while in striking distance.

More tug of war: Like offsetting red zone scoring stats, Montana and Weber State offset each other in other areas as well.

Montana leads the league in scoring offense with an average of 39.1 points per game. Weber State's defense limits teams to an average of just 16 points.

Get the latest sports news and scores sent to your email inbox

The parallels are the same for total offense and defense as well. 

Montana's average of 482.4 yards per game leads the league while WSU allows opponents an average of 314.3 per game. 

Young WSU offensive line: Unlike Montana, Weber has a young offensive line. The center, right guard and right tackle are freshmen. 

Look for the Montana defense to exploit the youth there to bring down, or at least pressure, Cantwell.

On that note ...

Limit Cantwell: Much of the Weber State offense runs through its senior quarterback. He's the second leading rusher on the team and has three main wide receiver/tight end targets that all average more than 10 yards per catch. 

Watch for Montana's front seven to put pressure on Cantwell and stop the run, and look for the defensive backs to step up in a time of adversity and limit catches by Andrew Vollert, Drew Batchelor and Rashid Shaheed.

Amie Just covers Griz football for the Missoulian, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at Amie.Just@406mtsports.com.

0
0
0
0
0

Load comments