MISSOULA — Preaseason practices are now officially over for the Montana Grizzlies with just a scrimmage to go before game week preparations begin.
Montana's head football coach Bobby Hauck said Friday's scrimmage — which is closed to the public — will be similar to the first one: getting live plays.
"Just trying to improve, keep going," Hauck said of what he wants to get out of Montana's second preseason scrimmage. "We need live plays. Just keep going and get as much of that as we feel is productive for our game prep for Northern Iowa and then we'll cut it off.
"We're zeroing in on them a little bit more. The plays that we go live will be just us playing."
Senior safety Evan Epperly was more specific about what the defense wants to see out of Friday.
"We just want to clean things up," Epperly said. "Any mistakes we've been making we don't want to make anymore. We just want to be crisp, do the best we can and wrap up practice and fall camp. We just want to end it on a good note."
And sophomore wide receiver Samori Toure shared a realistic team-wide goal.
"Really, I'm just hoping everyone comes out of it healthy," Toure said. "I think we're ready. I just hope we all come out of it healthy and ready to go."
Fourteen preseason practices are in the books and the season is just around the corner. And those 14 practices went by quickly for the team.
"It went by fast," Epperly said. "It seems like every camp, every year, it goes by faster."
Senior defensive lineman Kyle Davis agreed.
"Camp, it seems like it flew by, but it's been really good," Davis said. "We've put a lot of things together. Where a lot of question marks were, we've put things together. We've had guys step up and do well."
Once Friday's scrimmage wraps up, the preseason chapter will be finished and the focus will be No. 13 Northern Iowa.
The players' assessments of how camp went are very similar.
"You can tell that everybody's starting to click a lot better," junior wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee said. "Everybody's on the same page and everybody's getting better and improving. I'm excited to see what everybody can do, offense and defense and special teams."
Toure added: "We started to focus on the little things. We all have the athletic ability and the speed, the natural stuff. But really working on the little stuff like getting out of our breaks, the little stuff that can turn us into great receivers. That's what we've been working on."
Epperly added: "I think we have a really good mix of guys. We have some veterans who have been here and we have some new guys that just came in. I think we're gelling pretty well as camp has gone on. We're starting to become a pretty close-knit group. We just want to continue to grow and see what happens."
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The Northern Iowa game is roughly a week away now, and Montana's players are ready to start Hauck's second tenure at UM.
"All summer we were working together through player-run practices and we'd run routes beyond that," Toure said. "All summer we were out here to work out and get in shape and to create that chemistry is one of the biggest things. I think we have that.
"We've been working so hard throughout fall camp and through the summer. Now, to this point, how we should be a week before the game is we're crisp and we're ready to go and everybody's doing the right thing and what's expected of us because game day's coming up."
"I'm just excited to get out there and just get going. Sept. 1, just get on the road, get playing in games," Louie-McGee said. "This fall camp, this winter, spring, has been a grind. We're ready to show off our hard work and get going."
Hauck said Montana's starting lineup for Sept. 1 has yet to be made.
"We're still in camp mode. We'll go right through the weekend and we'll start narrowing it down," Hauck said Thursday. "We have a good idea, obviously. But we've still got some good competitions going on. Frankly, the starting lineup isn't huge because we play a lot of guys."
The receivers, a group Hauck considers to be "a strength of the team," are still engaging in competition.
"There's definitely competition but it's unspoken," Toure said. "We don't really talk about it a lot. But we know who has good days, who has bad days."
Earlier this week, former Grizzly-turned-Bobcat defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak reminsced on his time with Hauck to 406mtsports.com's Greg Rachac.
“(Hauck) is a Montana guy. He takes a lot of pride in being from Montana, and when you’re on his staff you learn in a hurry about the rivalry,” Gregorak said. “I was there 12 years, and I’d never really been in Bozeman except for the six times we played here. It had just been pounded into my head. Just hate.
“Bobby gets it. You’re one or the other. I’ve tried my very best to use everything I learned from him in regards to teaching our guys about that. You can be friendly and buddies every other day of the year, but on that day you’re not friends. Sorry.”
Gregorak added: "I think Bobby’s return is great for their program. I really do. I believe he will get them back in serious contention at some point.”
Hauck looked back on their relationship on Thursday.
"Ty's a good, long time — I mean, I recruited him. I coached him. He worked with me for numerous years," Hauck said of Gregorak. "Ty and Ty's extended family have been good friends for a long time. In fact, his grandparents stopped by my office yesterday. That's how far back we go."
NOTES: That's mostly it for Griz camp. Montana's second scrimmage of the preseason is Friday, but it's closed to the public. Saturday's scheduled practice is also closed. Next up: Game week for No. 13 Northern Iowa.