MISSOULA — Saturday is already going to be a big day in Washington-Grizzly Stadium with the return of "Super Dave" Dickenson.
But it could be even bigger.
No. 19 Montana's all-time record in Washington-Grizzly Stadium is 199-30, meaning the next win moves the Grizzlies into the 200-win column at home.
Topping Sacramento State won't be easy though. The Hornets come into the game with a 2-1 record, beating conference foe Northern Colorado and Division II St. Francis so far this season. Sacramento State's loss came against FBS San Diego State — Grizzly coach Bobby Hauck's former team.
Hauck knows Saturday's game will be a tough test.
"We're in a situation where we've got to play real well to win," Hauck said. "If we don't play real well, we won't. We have to continue to prepare through the week, go out and play fast.
"... We're not there yet, but effort is a constant here, which is a hallmark of what this team has to be. We need to go play well because we'll always be hard pressed to win when we aren't playing real well."
Four more things to watch, listed in no particular order:
Dickenson has been looking forward to returning to Missoula for some time. That time has now come. Saturday is the Dave Dickenson Hall of Fame Game and "Super Dave" will be honored in between the first and second quarters ahead of his enshrinement into the College Football Hall of Fame.
"It's hard when you're coaching elsewhere to get to a game. It's significant that he's taking time out of a really busy schedule to be here with his college football family," Hauck said Wednesday. "We stay in touch but it'll be great to see him in person.
"I think we have a strong tradition and history here, and obviously, he's a big part of it, and it's good for our guys to see that in the flesh."
Only 997 players and 217 coaches have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (including the 2018 class) from the nearly 5.33 million people who have played or coached the game over the past 149 years.
Only one other former Griz football player is in the Hall of Fame — "Wild Bill" Kelly. He was inducted posthumously in 1969.
Dickenson will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame at a ceremony in New York City on Dec. 4.
Senior first-team all-Big Sky safety Mister Harriel is a menace in the defensive backfield.
Harriel has two interceptions this season, both of them coming against FBS San Diego State — a team that hadn't thrown multiple interceptions in 40 games. He also has four passes defended and 15 tackles.
Last season, Harriel racked up a team-high 87 tackles, had five tackles for loss, two sacks, three interceptions, five passes defended and two pass breakups.
If he has a big day, Sacramento State has a big chance to win.
For the fourth straight week, Montana faces a fifth-year senior quarterback with considerable experience.
Hauck said he couldn't think of a time in his coaching career where he's been in this situation before.
"It's the fourth week in a row we're playing a fifth-year senior starting quarterback which I don't think I've encountered before," Hauck said Monday. "They just keep coming one after another, guys that are talented and understand and they're going to be hard to fool and they're going to do things right. That'll be a challenge."
But Hauck has a bit more familiarity with this quarterback.
Quarterback Kevin Thomson was recruited by Hauck and UM offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach to go to UNLV. Thomson redshirted in Hauck and Rosenbach's last year at UNLV. He stayed at UNLV for one more season, overlapping with UM quarterback Dalton Sneed.
So far this season, Thomson has completed 38 of his 60 passes for 645 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He's also added 57 yards on the ground.
A big key to this game is containing Thomson.
There were several changes to the Montana two-deep this week.
One of the notable ones is that junior tight end Colin Bingham was nowhere to be found on Tuesday's depth chart.
"I just don't know if he'll be able to go," Hauck said of Bingham on Wednesday.
Montana will be turning to either Bryson Deming or Matt Rensvold, both in-state products who are redshirt freshmen. Both of them have just one catch on the season so far. Deming's was an 8-yard grab, while Rensvold's was a 9-yard haul.
Deming is listed above Rensvold on the depth chart, but that apparently doesn't mean much.
"They're competing right now. We'll see," Hauck said of Deming and Rensvold on Wednesday. "They're doing a good job. They're freshmen. There's a lot of freshman stuff, but they're going to be good players, and we need to be good players this weekend."
Another freshman appeared on the depth chart for the first time this week: true freshman wide receiver Gabe Sulser. Sulser played a few snaps on Saturday against Western Illinois but wasn't targeted.
"He's full speed, finally," Hauck said of Sulser, who spent much of preseason camp donning a blue injury jersey. "We haven't had him for a whole bunch of practices but enough to feel good about him playing a few plays."
There was some shifting on the offensive line as well.
After getting his first start at right guard against Western Illinois, junior lineman Cy Sirmon moved up to the No. 1 spot in that position on the depth chart. Redshirt freshman Skyler Martin is now backing him up after being listed as the backup center last week.
Dylan Eickmeyer is now listed as the backup center behind Cody Meyer. And true freshman Cole Sain, who was listed at right guard last week, is now behind junior Angel Villanueva at left guard.
"Just improvement," Hauck said of what the changes meant on the offensive line. "We've got to keep getting better, keep working. We're seeing incremental gain week to week. We'd like that to be more monumental, but that's not how it works."
Do those dominoes affect Saturday's game?
In addition to those five things, here are five key stats to know:
0-11: Sacramento State has never won in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, being outscored by Montana by 297 points, 483-186.
2-0: Montana is undefeated when wearing copper and gold throwback uniforms. The Grizzlies topped the Bobcats, 35-8, in 2008 wearing the alternates and beat Northern Arizona, 23-14, homecoming weekend in 2015.
39: Junior wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee needs 39 more catches to break the all-time program record for career receptions.
82: Hauck has 82 career wins at Montana. A win over Sacramento State will inch him closer to Don Read's program record of 85.
593: Montana is gaining on the 600-wins mark in program history. The victory over Drake gave the Grizzlies their 593rd win since UM started football in 1897. The first win in program history was in 1897, when Montana beat Montana State, 18-6.