MISSOULA — The bow is tied on Montana's nonconference slate and the Grizzlies head into league play with a 2-1 record.
Montana's schedule so far this season hasn't been the easiest: two Missouri Valley teams that played in the FCS playoffs last year and Drake.
"We're doing some good things. Ultimately, we get a chance to spend some time together, we're 2-1," Grizzly coach Bobby Hauck said. "We want to be 3-0 but certainly we don't want to be 0-3. We've done some good things and we need to continue to improve as we get into conference play we want to play our best game."
Few words describe Montana's 31-27 loss at Western Illinois better than "heartbreaker."
It's a word quarterback Dalton Sneed used on Monday when looking back on the game.
"It's a heartbreaker, you know. You're winning with five minutes left, so I feel that we just need to be better and not turn the ball over, not put the ball on the ground," Sneed said. "That starts with the quarterback. I turned the ball over too many times and that falls into their hands and they get that momentum going."
He added: "I think we're clicking a little bit in some areas. There's a lot of stuff we need to work on. Offense was pretty sloppy at times the past week so we'll get it cleaned up and continue to get better."
Sneed completed 24 of his 41 passes for 229 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He added 42 yards on the ground as well, leading Montana's rushing effort.
Montana started the game down 14-0, but rallied back to take a lead by the end of the first quarter.
Senior safety Reid Miller said that keeping cool heads on the sideline is what helped the Grizzlies get back into it.
"We stayed calm on the sideline. Coach Hauck stayed calm. He told us to stay calm," Miller said Monday. "I think that's the biggest thing. If you start worrying early in the game, the game's not going to go well."
No. 19 Montana plays host to Sacramento State (2-1) this weekend in the Dave Dickenson Hall of Fame Game.
Sacramento State, skippered by Jody Sears, is coming off a narrow, 28-25 win over Northern Colorado. The Hornets also played NAIA Saint Francis (Ill.), winning 55-7, and FBS San Diego State, losing 28-14.
"They're well-coached, they're physically mature," Hauck said. "They hold up physically. They're scheme is great. They're solid in everything they do. Offense, defense, special teams. They've got good athletes. They're just a complete team."
Hauck noted in his opening statement that the Hornets were picked to finish two spots ahead of the Grizzlies in the preseason coaches poll and that the people, in theory, who should know what they're talking about, have high regard for Sacramento State.
Regardless of the opponent, though, Hauck said now is the time to shine.
"I think conference games are bigger, no matter who you play in the nonconference schedule," Hauck said. "Our goal is to win every game. But I think conference games are big. We're playing for something in terms of a championship."
DAVE DICKENSON GAME: "Super Dave" Dickenson will be in town this weekend to be honored ahead of his upcoming December induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Montana is throwing it back to 1995 and will be wearing copper and gold throwback uniforms. Replica gear can be found at various retailers: The M Store, the UM Bookstore, Universal Athletic, GoGriz.com, Bob Ward's, Scheels in Billings and Great Falls, and online at Fanatics.com. The apparel will only be available through the rest of the calendar year.
"It's going to be great to have Dave here. He's such a great guy and one of the pillars of Grizzly football," Hauck said. "With him coaching in the CFL and us coaching down here, we don't get to see as much of each other as we have over the years.
"He came to Vegas and visited us one time. I think that's the last time I saw him. We stay in touch. Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing him. I know a bunch of our coaches are. We're old friends.
"I just think it's really cool that he's able to make it work. It's significant for a head coach in the Canadian Football League to come down here for a game. That's not lost on anybody."