MISSOULA — One week after ending a hallowed South Dakota streak, Montana will try to continue a streak of the same nature.
The Griz come into their home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday against North Alabama having won 15 consecutive such games. That streak dates back to 2004 and is the sixth longest in the FCS.
Montana is coming off a 31-17 win over South Dakota in which it snapped the Coyotes’ stretch of 16 consecutive home-opening wins. Griz coach Bobby Hauck hyped up the streak-ending victory to his team after the game and reiterated it during his weekly press conference.
“Happy to go on the road and beat a really good football team at their place,” Hauck said ahead of Montana’s first-ever game against North Alabama. “It’s not lost on us that the 16 previous home openers were won by the home team there. Obviously, it’s a tough place to open the season, and I’m proud of our guys for going and getting that win.”
During the 15-game stretch, Montana has faced 13 different teams at home, 10 of which were FCS programs. The Griz pitched two shutouts in that stretch and held three more teams to single digits. The average score was 40.8 to 15.7 in favor of Montana for a margin of plus-25.1 points.
Since Washington-Grizzly Stadium opened midway through 1986, Montana has dominated in its home openers. The Griz are 28-4 (.875) in their first home game of the season, including an even more impressive mark of 28-3 (.903) since dropping its first opener in 1987. They’ve outscored teams by 23.8 points on average, 38.2 to 14.4.
Of Montana’s 32 home openers in Wa-Griz, the team has played 16 games against a program that was FCS at the time. The Griz have gone 14-2 in those games and currently have a 12-game winning streak after starting 2-2. Their last such loss came in 2000, when Hofstra squeaked out a 10-9 win.
The most recent Grizzly loss in a home opener was also a one-point defeat, 25-24 to North Dakota State in 2003, Hauck’s first home game of his first season of his previous stint. At the time, the Bison were playing their final season as a Division II team.
The loss to NDSU was the lone time a Hauck-led team dropped its first home game. His teams are 7-1 in those games, including a 26-23 upset of Northern Iowa in 2018, Hauck’s first year of his second stint as Montana’s head coach. Under him, the Griz have outscored their opponents by an average margin of 23.3 points, 36.1 to 12.8, in home openers.
If Montana can continue its winning streak in home openers, it’ll snap a stretch of three consecutive home losses to end the 2018 season. That was the first three-game losing streak during the regular season in the history of Washington-Grizzly Stadium.