MISSOULA — Montana football coach Bobby Hauck said on Monday he’s "doubtful" injured quarterback Dalton Sneed will play this weekend but will have a better idea later in the week.
“I have some doubts that we’ll have him for Saturday,” Hauck said at the top of his weekly press conference leading up to the Grizzlies’ game against unranked Eastern Washington at noon Saturday in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, with the game broadcast on Root Sports.
“He won’t practice today. He won’t practice tomorrow. And then we’ll see Thursday, Friday how he does. Good news is he’s not a guy that needs a bunch of reps.”
Sneed left the game after being tackled in the third quarter of the Grizzlies’ loss at Sacramento State this past Saturday and didn’t return to the field. He remained on the sideline with a bag of ice taped around his right ankle and was using a pair of black crutches.
The 6-foot-1, 216-pound Sneed has been the driving force behind the Griz offense as a dual-threat quarterback. He’s averaged 346.3 yards of total offense per game, fourth best in the FCS.
When Sneed went out, Montana was trailing then-No. 15 Sacramento State 42-15 and ended up losing 49-22. The Griz dropped five spots to No. 10 in the STATS FCS Top 25 on Monday and now sit at 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky.
Should Sneed be unavailable, backup quarterback Cam Humphrey is the most likely candidate to start in his place. The 6-foot-2, 194-pound junior began college at Boise State, went to Saddleback Community College and has been Sneed’s backup since 2018.
Humphrey has completed 26 of 54 passes for 423 yards with three touchdowns in 12 games the past two seasons, almost exclusively when the game has been out of hand. He’s gained 16 rushing yards but has a net total of minus-24 yards because of sacks on 10 rush attempts.
“He’s like all the guys we recruit — he runs it pretty well and he throws it,” Hauck said of Humphrey, who took the majority of reps in fall camp and drew rave reviews from Sneed. “He’s got good arm strength. He’s a smart guy, like everybody in that room.
“As I said, we don’t know if we’ll have Dalton. I’m doubtful we will. But we’re confident in Cam’s ability.”
Eastern Washington has experienced some early season struggles after losing 25 seniors, including 18 four-year letter winners, from last year’s national runner-up finish. The Eagles are 3-4 overall and 2-1 in the league coming off their bye week. They’ve lost all four of their road games and haven’t beaten an FCS team with a current winning record.
Eastern Washington has been unranked in each of the past three polls, but this will still be the 21st consecutive game in the series in which one team is ranked. Montana and Eastern Washington have combined to win three national titles and 25 outright or shared conference championships since the Eagles joined the Big Sky in 1987.
“Big game this weekend against Eastern,” Hauck said. “It’s a traditional matchup the people here have paid attention to, and it’s a game of import here, and it’s been that way for a long time. So, we need to get back to work and get ready for them. They have a really good football team. Obviously, we all are aware that they played in the national championship game a year ago.”
Eastern Washington has again been an offensive juggernaut under Aaron Best. He’s in his third year as the head coach and has been with the program for all but one season since 1996, when he started his playing career there as a center and long snapper.
The Eagles rank fifth in the FCS in total offense (497.6 yards) and tied for 14th in scoring offense (37.3 points). They’re led by dual-threat quarterback and Walter Payton Award nominee Eric Barriere, multi-time all-conference running back Antoine Custer, a slew of wide receivers and a veteran offensive line.
“Their offense is very skilled,” Hauck said. “It starts with the quarterback. Barriere’s a dynamic, special guy with the ball in his hands. I think they have really good skill, always have good offensive linemen, including this year, and they’re just tough to stop. They have a chance to get away from people as they have at times this year."
Conversely, the Eagles have struggled on defense. They’re 89th in total defense (423.6) and 102nd in scoring defense (35.9). Hauck highlighted the play of safety Dehonta Hayes, linebacker Jack Sendelbach and defensive lineman Dylan Ledbetter.
“Their defense, they’re solid and sound,” Hauck said. “They do a lot of good things. We kind of expect a bunch of line games and movement out of them. They do some really good things. The safety Hayes, Ledbetter and Sendelbach are the guys that really pop off the film to me.
“They’ve got good players. They’re well coached. It’ll be a tough game.”