MISSOULA — The bounce back came in a big way on Saturday night under the lights in Missoula, as the Montana Grizzlies obliterated Cal Poly 57-0 to snap their three-game losing skid.
It's a game the Griz needed, and one they got.
"I did see this performance coming," Griz coach Bobby Hauck said. "We were fired up this morning at our walk through, all week at practice, but we've had excellent prep every week. They don't know any different. They prepare every week, they play their tails off. We had lost three in a row and a group that wants to go out and prepare like that coming off of some really, really difficult circumstance, I'll just go back to what I said before I admire them.
Lucas Johnson made his return at quarterback, and the offense didn't skip a beat as the Griz jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, and never looked back.
But in the first quarter, the weather became a major factor and storyline, as the first snow of the year began heavily falling in Missoula, as the fans and teams at Washington-Grizzly Stadium were treated to a snow bowl, good news for the Montanans, but bad news for Cal Poly, with Johnson, a Southern California native, having some fun with it afterwards.
"I thought it was cool. I had a lot of fun," Johnson said with a laugh. "You know I'm Montana tough now. I was out there no sleeves, and I was proud of myself for that. But yeah it was really cool to play in that type of environment with all of my guys and it was a really cool experience."
Meanwhile, Anaconda native Braxton Hill had some fun at Johnson's expense, while noticing the Griz had an advantage with the weather.
"They (Cal Poly) didn't say anything (about the weather) but we always say they have cold hands, they're from California," Hill said, before looking and gesturing toward Johnson in a way to show no offense, resulting in laughter at the press conference. "But they weren't saying anything like that, I think they wanted to get on the plane and get back home quite frankly."
Hauck added about Johnson, "He's Montana now, he just said it."
One week after netting just 114 yards, the Griz offense would go on to rack up 695 total yards, second-most in school history, behind the record of 717 the Grizzlies achieved in 1999 against Weber State.
The Griz added 37 first downs, which did set a school record, and went 14 for 19 on third down, and didn't punt once.
The Griz also finished with 412 yards on the ground, and Nick Ostmo accounted for 221 of those yards on the ground, as the sophomore played in his first snow game, and just seemed to get better and better as the game went along. His yards in the game rank sixth-best in school history.
"I think it was a lot of tiring out the defense, so just maintaining what we were doing and just being able to tire them out and be able to break more tackles and get more push on the offensive line and just open up bigger holes and get more yards," Ostmo said about the game's progression.
Defensively, the Grizzlies shut the Mustangs down with their first shutout since the opener against Northwestern State. The Griz held Cal Poly (1-8, 0-6 Big Sky Conference) to 192 total yards, 4 for 16 on third down, and racked up eight tackles for loss, three sacks, and Marcus Welnel added an interception.
"I've been wanting to play in a game like that ever since I was 10 watching the App State playoff game so defense, we were looking at the weather and we were hoping it was going to snow like that and it was a dream come true out there," Hill said. "We were flying around, being on that side of the ball you want that weather so it was fun out there."
With the victory, Montana improved to 6-3 overall and 3-3 in Big Sky Conference play, as they got back to their winning ways with two games left in the regular season. The Griz welcome Eastern Washington to Missoula next Saturday.