It is cool. No, not the vibe - the temperature a few hours before kickoff from the Husky Stadium press box.
Maybe this is the day Jake Browning and the UW offense warms it all up for 60 minutes (or three quarters, if the game gets out of hand).
Few outside the camp of my good friend — Ryan Divish, a Havre, Montana native and crazy-loyal Grizzlies fan who now works for the Seattle Times — think Montana has much of a shot to hang with the Huskies in their home opener.
Still, here are three intriguing matcups heading into the UW-Montana game:
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1. Huskies RB Myles Gaskin vs. Montana ROV Josh Buss
Got a feeling, after the UW’s success in the second half against Rutgers, and listening to Huskies co-offensive coordinator talk this week — Gaskin’s involvement in the pass game isn’t going away anytime soon.
Gaskin not only showed soft hands in catching a 17-yard touchdown pass from Browning last week, his awareness in tight spaces, especially along the sideline, shows a growth in that area of his game.
The O’Dea product caught five passes for 79 yards in the game.
Buss is a freight-train of a hitter who does damage on all levels. He blitzes. He covers. He sticks. He usually wins.
Last season, his 20 tackles for loss ranked 10th in FCS. But has he seen a running back of this caliber coming at him? That will be answered this afternoon.
2. Huskies CB Byron Murphy vs. Montana QB Reese Phillips
Both guys had good opening weekends: In his first start, Murphy, a redshirt freshman, picked off Rutgers quarterback Kyle Bolin twice. Phillips, a senior transfer from Kentucky, threw 381 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Valparaiso.
But why did it take an FBS transfer so long to win the Grizzlies’ starting job?
Phillips has been known to go for too much, and turn the ball over. That plays right in the hands of the Huskies’ best gambling defensive back in Murphy, who will take chances undercutting routes to make a play on the football.
Phillips has to be aware of where Murphy is at all times. If he’s not, he might be stuck chasing him the other way on a interception return.
3. Huskies PR Dante Pettis vs. Montana punter Eric Williams
Last week, the wrong UW special-teams returner was highlighted in true freshman Salvon Ahmed, who did not line up at all back there.
That mistake won’t be repeated, especiall after Pettis tied the Pac-12 record with his sixth career punt return for a touchdown, this time a 61-yarder against Rutgers late in the first half.
Oddly enough, the Huskies will be facing another NCAA Division III punter transfer in Williams, who started at Carleton College in Minnesota.
Last season, Williams was the Grizzlies’ full-time punter, forcing fair catches in 16 of his 50 punts. He doesn’t have the big leg like Rutgers punter Ryan Anderson, but all Pettis needs is one crease and he can take another one to the house to own the conference record by himself.