After weeks of film study, watching and rewatching the Montana Grizzlies and last year's Colorado School of Mines tape, Karlton Dennis and a few Cal Poly teammates gathered at his San Luis Obispo, California, house to view another Grizzly game this past Saturday.
This one wasn't so much for film breakdown, though. Many of the Mustangs genuinely wanted to watch the game.
"It was obviously just exciting to finally watch some college football," Cal Poly quarterback Chris Brown said. "It's been a long, long offseason, long summer."
The Mustangs' players and coaching staff were among the nearly 1 million households that tuned in to watch the Grizzlies' epic defeat of preseason No. 1 North Dakota State on Saturday, a 38-35 thriller that aired nationally on ESPN. It was a glimpse of what's on the docket for the 'Stangs this week when Cal Poly visits Montana, a 7 p.m. kickoff at Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Saturday.
"We were super excited to see them beat the No. 1 team in the nation," said Dennis, a senior cornerback. "It's a huge accomplishment for them and it'd mean even more for us being able to go there and show them what we're about."
The Mustangs got a sneak peek of what the Grizzlies are all about thanks to the "Week 0" contest, ESPN's FCS Kickoff showcase that is moved one week ahead of the rest of the college football slate. This Saturday's game will be the first for the Mustangs, who already have current film to study on the 2015 Grizzlies.
That's a certain benefit, Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh said.
"It was great watching them play – and seeing their personnel. He hit it right on the head," the coach said, commenting on Montana coach Bob Stitt's oft-quoted statements that his innumerable receivers would be the strength of his team.
"When he looks at the personnel that he's playing with, the wide receiver corps, the size of their offensive line, the depth they have at running back and a 6-foot-7 quarterback, the personnel fits exactly what he wants to do. That showed up very clearly against North Dakota State, traditionally one of the best defenses in the FCS."
That being said, the football fan in Walsh was just as excited for the game, which turned into an instant classic when Grizzly running back Joey Counts scored a game-winning touchdown with 2 seconds to play on fourth-and-1 from the goal line.
The win had big-picture ramifications for sure.
"A great win not only for coach Stitt and the University of Montana, but a great win for the Big Sky, to be honest with you," Walsh said.
Both Cal Poly and Montana find themselves in the same boat in terms of preparing for the other's attack. Both sides run offenses that are unique, to say the least – the Mustangs' triple option offense and the Grizzlies' speedy huck-it-around passing approach. The programs' scout teams had to put in major work to transform into the looks the respective defenses are likely to see this week.
And as Montana did for the Bison last week, the Mustangs have been scouting the Grizzlies for a month straight in fall camp.
"We've had an extra week to prepare for them," Dennis said. "They spent pretty much their whole camp preparing for North Dakota (State). I feel like that gives us an advantage. ... After seeing what they played over the weekend, we have a good idea what they're gonna do."
Seeing and doing are two different things, Stitt said. His Grizzlies will run things much differently week to week. It all depends on what the defenses show.
That's what makes Montana's new offense so dangerous.
"Supposedly North Dakota State had all of our (Colorado Mines) film from last year and we haven't changed anything from last year," Stitt said after his team put up 544 yards on the four-time defending champs. "We just continue to do our stuff, but it's very hard for these defenses to simulate the game speed."
The Grizzlies ran 92 plays in the victory.