Idaho State Nevada Football

Idaho State head coach Rob Phenicie, right, celebrates his teams upset win over Nevada in their NCAA college football game Saturday, September 16, 2017 in Reno, Nev. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes)

Tom R. Smedes

MISSOULA — Montana fans may get flashbacks to the days of ex-Grizzly head coach Bobby Hauck on Saturday. 

Those flashbacks will come courtesy of Idaho State. 

Rob Phenicie, Hauck's former offensive guru at Montana, and former wide receiver Matt Troxel coach for the Bengals.

Troxel, who worked at Montana for a short stint after the 2016 season as the inside receivers coach, went back to Idaho State after Phenicie was named head coach.

When Phenicie was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Montana from 2003-09, he led the Griz to three FCS title games and to the playoffs every year. 

He's a big reason why Idaho State's offense is clicking. 

This year his Bengals are 3-2 with a big win over FBS Nevada in their third game of the year and a one-point loss on the road at Northern Colorado.

The win over Nevada looked impressive initially. It was the first time since 2000 Idaho State beat an FBS team. Now Nevada is 0-5 with its 20-point loss last week coming against a 2-2 Fresno State team. 

Idaho State did everything right in its loss at Northern Colorado. The Bengals had 619 yards of total offense — the eighth highest by a Bengal team since 2004 — with 355 yards rushing. But a 37-yard field goal by Northern Colorado's Collin Root with time running out resulted in a Bengals loss. 

Scouting Idaho State's offense

Unlike Portland State last week, Idaho State is near the top in a few conference statistical categories like total and scoring offense. Their total offensive numbers rank 23rd among FCS schools and their scoring offense stats are 26th.

So far this season, the Bengals average 445 total yards per game. That's up 77 yards from just last year. 

Much of that can be attributed to the several long plays Idaho State's had. The Bengals have had 31 plays longer than 20 yards this season, compared to Montana's 16.  

A few offensive players to watch:

RB James Madison: No, this isn't the 2008 title game coming back to haunt Griz fans, but Madison could easily disrupt things like the Dukes did back in Chattanooga. 

Madison leads the conference in rushing yards per game and he's only a junior. Madison has 422 yards on the ground through four games for an average of 105.5 yards per game.

His best game of the year came against Northern Colorado where he had 253 yards rushing — a mark good enough for the seventh most in a game by an FCS player this season. 

QB Tanner Gueller: Eastern Washington's Gage Gubrud has the nod for best quarterback in the league locked up, but Gueller is in the running for No. 2. 

He averages 269 yards per game and has 12 touchdowns through five games. The 12 touchdowns are the second-most most in the conference. His passer efficiency rating is strong too at 152.7.

Gueller's coming off a strong game too. Against Cal Poly, Gueller completed 14 of 24 passes for 341 yards with three touchdowns. On the ground, he had a personal-best 60 yards rushing and a rushing score. 

Scouting Idaho State's defense

LB Mario Jenkins: Jenkins' presence on defense is easy to notice. The senior linebacker has made a league-high 59 tackles so far this season for an average of 11.8 per game. His per game average for tackles ranks him fourth in the country while his sheer total tackle numbers rank him second. 

The former Big Sky Freshman of the Year has accumulated 5½ tackles for loss and 1½ sacks as well as a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. 

Like Gueller, he's coming off a big game. Jenkins had 18 tackles against Cal Poly last week. 

LB Joe Martin: Martin isn't far behind his teammate in total tackles either. The junior linebacker has 53 tackles so far this season for an average of 10.8 per game, a mark that's third in the conference and 12th in the country. 

Martin racked up 20 tackles against Utah State in Idaho State's second game of the season. That's the second-best performer by a tackler in a game this season, only to Western Illinois' (who Montana plays next season) Brett Taylor, who had 28 in a game earlier this year.

DB Tucker Louie-McGee: Familiar with this last name? Tucker is Jerry Louie-McGee's older brother. Tucker wears No. 17, unlike his brother's No. 16, and lines up at a different position (defensive back).

It's possible Tucker could cover his little brother on Saturday, as Tucker is a second-string safety on Idaho State's defense. If he does, look for a slight mismatch. Tucker is 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, while Jerry is 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds. 

Amie Just covers Griz football for the Missoulian, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at

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