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Weber State football: Scandal-ridden Montana still presents challenge for Wildcats

Published November 2, 2012 4:21 pm

College football • Grizzlies are missing several players but still expected to put up good fight.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's true that Weber State's 2012 football campaign was sabotaged by upheaval within the program. But WSU was not the only Big Sky Conference program rocked by a sudden change in coaches.

Montana, a perennial league power, fired its head coach and athletic director, Robin Pflugrad and Jim O'Day, respectively, for their handling of sexual assault allegations against several team members. This included Grizzlies' starting quarterback Jordan Johnson, dismissed in the spring after being charged with rape.

At WSU, interim coach Jody Sears took over for John L. Smith, who was hired following the 2011 season to replace retired Ron McBride. Smith, in turn, bolted following spring football for Arkansas, which suddenly found itself without a coach after Bobby Petrino was fired.

Montana coach Mick Delaney, hired out of retirement after 43 years of coaching, addressed the issue earlier this season.

"I'm sure Jody's approach is different than John L.'s and my approach is different than Robin's," he said. "Each guy has to be their own self to make things like that work. I think we have quality kids like Weber State does and the University of Montana does, they are ready to buy in as long as you're doing the right thing, the right way, as long as you're being honest with them.

"But once it happened, the same challenges were there, basically get the guys together, keep the staff together, keep everybody on the same page."

Delaney has strived to clean up Montana's program. The Grizzlies (4-5, 2-4 Big Sky) enter Saturday's 1:30 p.m. game at Weber State (1-7, 1-4) without three players who were suspended one game for violating team rules and a fourth who was arrested for criminal possession of dangerous drugs, which is a felony.

Despite the problems, and two rare home losses, Montana is far from a declawed Grizzly — just ask Idaho State, which left Missoula with a 70-24 loss.

Weber State had a bye week following a 24-22 victory at Southern Utah.

"I was really proud of how we played at Southern Utah as a team and proud of our effort," Sears said. "Our players have worked so hard all season and kept fighting, and it paid off."

Sears expects a good fight from the Grizzlies.

"Montana is a very good football team that is very well-coached," he said. They are extremely physical and play very hard. We have to keep focused on the process and control what we can do."

martyr@sltrib.com

Twitter:@tribmarty —

Montana at Weber State

P At Stewart Stadium

Kickoff • Saturday, 1:38 p.m.

TV • ROOT. Radio • 1280 AM

Records • Montana 4-5, 2-4; Weber State 1-7. 1-4

Series • Montana, 38-13

Last meeting • UM 45- 10 (Oct. 29, 2011)

About the Grizzlies • Montana leads the Big Sky and ranks 12th in the nation in total offense at 464.6 yards a game. ... The Grizzlies allow 400.8 yards of offense per game. ... Quarterback Shay Smithwick-Hann started his first career game Saturday at Idaho State and finished 14-for-21 for 205 yards and three touchdowns.

About the Wildcats • QB Mike Hoke has thrown for 1,511 yards and eight touchdowns and ranks ninth in the Big Sky in total offense and 10th in passing. ... Xavian Johnson has 377 receiving yards on 22 catches, averaging 17.1 yards per catch.