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Montana head coach Bob Stitt says his team has an improved mental focus this year compared to last entering the Brawl of the Wild.

MISSOULA — Tensions ran high between the Idaho State and Montana coaching staffs all last week, though most of the bad blood originated from Pocatello. 

Last Monday, Idaho State head coach Rob Phenicie — who coached at UM from 2003-09 — made sarcastic remarks about "the offensive genius" Montana coach Bob Stitt and his own program.

"We're just poor little Idaho State," Phenicie said last week. "... We're just lucky to play 'em." 

After Montana pulled off the come-from-behind victory in Holt Arena, Phenicie had more choice words about the Montana program, saying the Grizzlies were "being extremely dirty" on a play that injured Idaho State's leading tackler, Mario Jenkins. 

By Monday, Stitt had enough of Phenicie.

"That's something, it disturbs me because we don't play football that way," Stitt said, addressing Phenicie's comments about UM. "We're a very aggressive football team and we're gonna play the game within the rules and I'm a stickler on, we don't talk. We don't do anything that could cost our team with a penalty.

"I immediately came back and watched that play that he said we were so called "dirty" on and the kid that was injured bull-rushed our guy, knocked him over. Went low, knocked him over and ended up knocking our guy over. He was laying face down on the ground with his arm out. Their other guy took Conlan Beaver after the whistle and took him to the ground after the whistle and their player fell on the kid's elbow. Their player hurt their player. That's where it's at.

"Those accusations, you know, people get in trouble when they talk and they don't think. It's one of those deals that when people attack our program, we do things the right way in every aspect of our program. And that disappointed me. All the things leading up to that (last week) disappointed me.

"It's over. It's over. We won the game and we're moving on, but, when you decide to become a head coach, you gotta act like a head coach. You're not an assistant coach anymore and you have to represent your program. That's all I can say about it, but it's never gonna come from the Griz anything other than first class play and actions from our team."

Phenicie's comments weren't the only Idaho State unsportsmanlike actions getting attention. 

During the game, Eleven Sports cameras caught Idaho State wide receiver Michael Dean flipping off Montana fans. 

The Big Sky Conference issued a public reprimand of Dean's actions on Monday. 

"Such actions violate the Big Sky Conference Sportsmanship policy, which states, 'Student-athletes of Big Sky Conference institutions must remember at all times that they are representatives of an institution of higher education...'" the league press release said. "Accordingly, they are expected to conduct themselves in a manner which will reflect credit on the institution and the Conference and create a collegiate atmosphere for Big Sky competition.'

"The action is also a direct violation of the Misconduct Policies which preclude 'unsporting conduct… that discredits the event, intercollegiate athletics, or the Big Sky Conference, as the Conference has assigned a high priority to assure that attendance at Big Sky Conference games is a safe and enjoyable experience.'"


Other ISU leftovers

Stitt had positive things to say about plenty of his players and units on Monday. Here are some of the players he was impressed with:

QB Gresch Jensen: "Gresch threw the deep ball great. His arm felt great. We rested him all week. He was a little fatigued with his arm two weeks ago and we rested him and he was very, very sharp and our guys made plays."

WR Keenan Curran: "Keenan probably didn't have a big catch like the other guys, but he was big on kickoff. Kickoff was something we were really concerned about. We put him on kickoff. He brings the juice to that group and excitement and leadership. We were great on that. And the play to win the ball game. The onside. Who went up and got it? Keenan. It was a great play."

WR Josh Horner: "Horner again was awesome. Horner, the big thing for him was on the drive when we were up 4. He had the big third-down catch and then came back and caught the back shoulder when the guy was draped all over him. Those were two huge plays to get us up 11 because otherwise, we're kicking the field goal and it's a one-score game. Horner always seems to find a way."

WR Jerry Louie-McGee: "(Jensen) got Jerry the ball. Everybody's saying, 'What's wrong with Jerry?' Nothing. They're just taking him away and we were allowed to get Jerry the ball four or five times. He really kickstarted it. We saw what they were doing, spinning their coverage and we tried to get him deep over the top and that catch is as good as you'll ever see."

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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