MISSOULA — Portland State may be 1-4 this season and a combined 1-15 since the start of the 2017 campaign, but Montana football coach Bobby Hauck and the Grizzlies aren't overlooking the Vikings.
"These conference games are huge no matter who is on the other sideline," Hauck said. "Every one of these games is huge, especially in a league where you don't play everybody."
A look at all eight position groups, the intangibles and who has the edge:
QUARTERBACK: Montana's Dalton Sneed yet again had a productive Saturday against Cal Poly, racking up a season-high 285 passing yards with a season-high three passing scores and an interception. He added 26 yards on the ground.
Portland State uses a tandem quarterback system with sophomores Davis Alexander and Jalani Eason. They've combined for 1,057 yards through the air and 322 yards on the ground.
Have to give the edge to Montana on this one.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Montana's offensive line is continuing to making progress as the young fellas get more experience. The front didn't allow a sack last week and gave Sneed time in the pocket to get things done.
Portland State's offensive line has plenty of experience, as the Vikings' offensive front starts three seniors: Josh Brown at left tackle, Peter Fisherkeller at left guard and Garrett Stauffer at center. Junior right tackle Carlos Barraza is a new addition from Reno Sierra JC. Sophomore right guard Korbin Sorensen, who has the most starting experience of the group, rounds out the PSU front.
Portland State's five starters have played in a combined 96 games and have 44 starts. On the flip side, PSU's offensive front has given up six sacks this season.
For the first time this season, the edge goes to Montana at OL.
RUNNING BACK/FULLBACK: For the first time all season, Montana's rushing offense wasn't led by Sneed. Adam Eastwood had his most productive day on the ground against Cal Poly, breaking free for 132 yards rushing.
Senior running back Alijah Lee added 25 yards on two carries and fellow senior running back Jeremy Calhoun didn't see any time on Saturday.
Portland State's ground game is a major factor in what the Vikings do.
"With Bruce (Barnum) being there, they're always going to find a way to run it," Hauck said of Portland State's offense. "They're going to try to control the game with their rush offense. They'll use multiple personnel groups. They've got one group that's got four tight ends in the game at one time, which is unique in itself. They'll formation you, personnel you. They're going to find ways. They'll be insistent upon running it."
Their ground game runs through Alexander and Eason. They've combined for 69 carries and 322 yards on the ground.
Three running backs, though, Darian Green, Sirgeo Hoffman and Carlos Martin all have more than 100 yards rushing on the year. According to Portland State's depth chart for this week, Martin, a junior, will be getting the start.
Martin has 110 yards rushing on the year and averages 3.2 yards per carry.
Montana's run game still gets the edge, though.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END: Sophomore wide receiver Samuel Akem is balling out as of late. He has 24 receptions for 302 yards with four receiving touchdowns. Those four scores are tied for 14th among FCS receivers.
He's not the only one playing well.
True freshman wide receiver Gabe Sulser saw more action against Cal Poly and had three catches for 15 yards with a score. Sulser's now up to two touchdowns this season (one rushing and one receiving).
Junior wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee only had two catches against Cal Poly, but he still leads the Griz in receptions with 28 and yardage with 307. Sophomore wideout Samori Toure and senior receiver Keenan Curran are both close to eclipsing the 200-yard mark, too.
"I wouldn't really call it competition. I guess you could say it's friendly competition," Akem said Monday. "I'd say it's like, we're happy for anybody. We want the team to eat. This isn't about the me. In our room we have, 'Team, unit, me.' 'Me' being last. It's all about the team. It's about our group as a unit and then you can talk about 'me' at the end.
"But, I mean, as a group, when any of us gets a touchdown — and that's the tight ends included because (they) score passing touchdowns just like us. — we're just trying to eat as a team. That's all we care about in our receiver room is team success."
Portland State has one heck of a tight end too, junior preseason All-Big Sky player Charlie Taumoepeau — who went to high school with Curran.
"He's worked his butt off to get where he's at and to achieve the things that he's achieve. I couldn't be more proud of Charlie,"Curran said of Taumoepeau in July. "He made it out of Federal Way. He went to a school that's not typically that good and he's excelled. He's taken everything and he's gotten the most out of it."
As a Viking, Taumoepeau has started in 14 games and saw time in 27. Through five games this season, the junior overwhelmingly leads the Vikings' receiving game with 420 yards and five touchdowns. His yardage ranks fifth in the league. He also leads the league in receiving touchdowns.
Montana gets the edge, but watch out for Taumoepeau.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Montana's four-man front of Reggie Tilleman, Jesse Sims, David Shaw and RJ Nelson, in addition to reserve lineman Braydon Deming, has combined for 83 tackles, 6½ tackles for loss, 1½ sacks, eight quarterback hurries and one forced fumble.
Portland State's defense looks different from last year, due to the addition of Payam Saadat as the Vikings' defensive coordinator.
Hauck knows Saadat can be a game changer.
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"They've brought out some flex defense, which we haven't seen in a while. (Saadat) is kind of an expert at it with his background," Hauck said. "He's played different versions of it for many years. That structure can give you problems and has given us problems over the years. They're coming off a great defensive effort last week at Idaho, where they gave up 289 yards and the defense only gave up 13 points, so they're doing some really good things. They're a concern."
Portland State uses a 4-2-5 base defense like Montana does.
Defensive ends Larry Ross, a senior, and Noah Yunker, a sophomore, anchor the outside while sophomore left tackle Semise Kofe and junior right tackle Kenton Bartlett provide physicality on the inside.
The four of them have wreaked havoc behind the line of scrimmage, combining for 8½ tackles for loss. But on the flip side, Portland State's run defense is near the bottom of the league, as they allow an average of 214.2 rush yards per game.
Edge goes to Montana.
LINEBACKERS: The Hornets play two linebackers in their base packages, and their linebackers are the most productive part of their defense.
The two linebackers to watch are seniors Kasun Jackett and Sam Bodine.
Saturday will be Jackett's 14th start in a Viking uniform and Bodine's 18th.
The two of them are 1-2 in Portland State's defense as Jackett leads the Vikings with 36 tackles, and Bodine is right behind with 29. The duo has also combined for six tackles for loss.
But they have nothing on the dynamic duo of Montana linebackers Dante Olson and Josh Buss.
Olson leads the nation in total tackles with 79. Olson's sixth nationally with 31 solo tackles. He's tied for 12th among FCS defenders with seven tackles for loss and is 14th with 4½ sacks. He's coming off a monster 24-tackle performance, which earned him his third Big Sky defensive player of the week accolade in just his fifth start.
Buss, a preseason All-American, has 32 tackles, 5½ tackles for loss, 4½ sacks, two fumble recoveries (one he returned 80 yards for his first career touchdown), a pass breakup, a pass defended, two forced fumbles and a quarterback hurry.
Jace Lewis is also making a name for himself. He's currently fourth on the team with 29 tackles and 2½ tackles for loss, two of which were sacks.
Grizzlies take the edge.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Montana's passing defense moved up the charts after last week and now is in the middle of the league.
Montana allowed Cal Poly's run-dominant offense to put up just 100 yards passing on the day.
Redshirt freshman safety Robby Hauck nearly doubled his total tackle output last week, adding 17 against Cal Poly.
Only 10 players in the league have at least two interceptions, and sophomore cornerback Dareon Nash is one of them.
Portland State's most productive defensive back is Romeo Gunt, the Vikings' rover. He leads PSU with 4 tackles for loss and has 26 tackles, as well as an interception, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry.
Others to watch out for: Anthony Adams, Ryan Lesch, Deon Crayon, Artuz Manning and Maxwell Howell.
Portland State's five-man defensive backfield has the fourth-best pass defense in the league, only allowing an average of 227.6 passing yards per game.
Slight edge goes to Portland State.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Tim Semenza has nailed ten consecutive field goals for the Grizzlies, two in each game of the season so far. That's a mark that leads the country.
Montana also has one of the most dynamic long snappers nationwide. Matthew O'Donoghue recovered a fumble that set up a touchdown last week and previously caught a two-point conversion on a trick play at Western Illinois.
Portland State's Cody Williams has made four of his five field goals, missing a 49-yard attempt against Idaho last week. Ben Neisner, the Vikings' punter, averages 38.6 yards per punt, as two of his attempts have been blocked.
Edge goes to Montana.
INTANGIBLES: Portland State, despite being 1,098 miles round trip away from Missoula, is hopping on the bus for Barnum's famed "Americana Tour." The Vikings take the bus for most of their road games. It's also Homecoming for Montana, meaning Washington-Grizzly Stadium should be near-full like normal.
The edge goes to Montana.
Notes: The sixth Grizzly Coaches Show of the season with Bobby Hauck and Voice of the Grizzlies Riley Corcoran is Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The Coaches Show has changed venues this year and is now hosted at the Press Box instead of Brooks and Browns. All Grizzly Coaches Shows will be on Wednesdays during the season at the Press Box at 6:30 p.m.