SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — On Thursday, Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger penned an article titled "Is triple option offense fading away from college football?"
For Montana this week, that answer is no.
The triple option works on one basic premise: read the defense's movement and block one defensive player to swing the numbers — 11 to 10 — in favor of the offense by using the quarterback as a runner.
What's the "triple" part of a triple option? Well, there are three options. The quarterback has three options — keep the ball, give the ball or pitch the ball.
Montana coach Bobby Hauck is a big fan of triple option football.
"It's the greatest offense ever invented," Hauck said of the triple option. "It's unstoppable when executed. It's hard."
If he's into it, why doesn't he do it?
"I don't know it," Hauck said. "There's only a few people that know it. There's not many that run it anymore. It's just not the style we want to play."
That Montana style is a balanced approach, splitting run and pass plays.
Four more things to pay attention to in tonight's game, which starts at 5 p.m. Mountain time (TV: Eleven Sports, DirecTV channel 623):
How will Montana's defense match up with the always-tough Cal Poly triple option?
Hauck isn't keying in on one group to step up. It's the whole defense.
"It's every group. They can find different ways to get people blocked and they can make different people make plays," Hauck said. "It's all about how they decide to attack us and whether we can get off blocks and make plays in space is going to be the issue."
He added: "You have to stop three on every given play. That's what makes the offense difficult. They don't have to block everybody and there's two people at the point of the attack. They don't have to block because they option off of them. It's hard."
Senior captain linebacker Josh Buss knows how much the defense needs to be involved on Saturday.
"Just from previous years, I know it's going to be a tough, physical game the entire game," Buss said Monday. "As a defensive player that's what you should want though. I'm looking forward to it and I'm excited to get into it."
It's likely out of the question that junior quarterback Dalton Sneed will be as productive as he was last week, but how well does he match up with Cal Poly's odd front?
That question aside, Sneed knows teams will be game-planning for him as a running quarterback now, rather than just a mobile one.
"I would expect more spies coming from the defense, more guys that are moreso responsible for the quarterback," Sneed said.
Sure, Cal Poly has many threats on offense, but the one who seems to get the brunt of the work is sixth-year senior Joe Protheroe.
Protheroe, a 5-foot-11, 230-pound fullback, missed most of last season after sustaining serious damage to his right knee against San Jose State. But he's back and he's healthy.
The two-time all-Big Sky first-team rusher has 521 yards on the ground this season on 113 carries — second-highest mark in the league. Even though the Mustangs were throttled last week by Eastern Washington, Protheroe still eclipsed 175 yards on the ground.
"He's big and fast," Hauck said. "That's a pretty good place to start. He sees things well. He really does a nice job of getting to the right spot, seeing the blocking scheme. He runs through contact really well. I just watched him throw some DBs down when he gets into the secondary. He's a big, physical running back."
Hauck joked last Saturday that the true freshman wide receiver will get five touches and five touchdowns against Cal Poly after scoring on his first career carry against Sacramento State.
How will Montana use him in its offense this week?
In addition to those five things, here are five key stats to know:
0-3: The Grizzlies haven't beaten the Mustangs in their last three matchups.
1: The last two games between these two programs were decided by one point.
33: Junior wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee needs 33 more catches to break the all-time program record for career receptions.
83: Hauck has 83 career wins at Montana. A win over Cal Poly will inch him closer to Don Read's program record of 85.
594: Montana is gaining on the 600-wins mark in program history. The victory over Sacramento State gave the Grizzlies their 594th win since UM started football in 1897. The first win in program history was in 1897, when Montana beat Montana State, 18-6.