MISSOULA — The last time Montana played Central Washington in football, Mick Delaney was directing the Grizzlies and Travon Van was The Man in the backfield.
At least he was on Sept. 6, 2014. Montana rolled to a 48-14 home win behind four touchdowns, 83 yards rushing and 70 yards receiving by Van, who went on to enjoy a respectable career in the Canadian Football League.
It's worth noting the Grizzlies were ranked No. 4 at the time. Delaney took the reins as coach of Montana after Robin Pflugrad was fired in 2012, and he never received the credit he deserved for steadying the ship.
From the onset of that game back in 2014, it was apparent Montana wasn’t looking past the underdog Wildcats. Central Washington totaled minus-3 yards in the first quarter.
“We didn’t want to play down because we were playing a Division II school,” offered Montana defensive end Zack Wagenmann, who later had a cup of coffee in the NFL and is back living in Missoula now. “It was an emphasis all week. We wanted to start fast, and I’m just happy we were able to do that.”
Just like Delaney, Montana football coach Bobby Hauck is a master at getting his team ready to play, regardless of the opponent. The Grizzlies will no doubt be ready Saturday when Central Washington takes the field at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Hauck might be well-advised to bring up Central Washington's most recent game against a Big Sky Conference foe. It was a while ago — September of 2019 to be exact — but it's worth noting the Wildcats played Idaho to a 41-31 game in Moscow. The game was tied late in the third quarter.
With many fans wondering who was going to lead the Wildcats' offense that day in 2019, redshirt freshman QB Canon Racanelli stepped onto the field for the first series and did not disappoint. He along with a number of fresh faces on the CWU offense gave Idaho a run for its money.
The 5-foot-11 Racanelli is still on the Central Washington roster, listed as a redshirt sophomore. So is 6-5 redshirt junior Christian Moore, who actually played more than Racanelli in 2019. They may both play Saturday.
Central Washington has made a 5 1/2 hour-bus drive to Missoula from Ellensburg. The team is led by second-year coach Chris Fisk, who hails from Pocatello, Idaho. He played his college ball at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota and Southwestern College in Kansas.
Ellensburg is located just 28 miles south of Rosyln, Washington. That may be my favorite town in the state because Roslyn is where the exterior scenes were filmed for the funky 1990s TV series "Northern Exposure," which was actually set in fictional Cicely, Alaska.
Any time you fit a moose into the opening credits of a show, that's a good show. They just don't make them like that anymore.
Prediction-Central Washington at Montana: It's easy to go with Montana in this one because the Grizzlies play on a higher level (FCS). Plus the game is being contested in Missoula and Hauck is 100 times more established as a head coach than Central Washington's Chris Fisk. We don't want to say Central Washington is bush league, but Saturday's game wasn't even listed on its official athletic web site until earlier this week. It's like they forgot how to log on after the onset of COVID-19 and just recently figured it out.
Speltz: Montana 45, Central Washington 21. Gogola: Montana 34, Central Washington 21.
Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 15 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at email@example.com.