UM Researchers, Global Problems
In the Beginning
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AROUND THE OVAL
About the Montanan
By Chad Dundas
The Grizzlies took the Big Sky Conference, amassing a 9-2 record and ending the season with a 49-3 victory over the MSU Bobcats, the fourteenth straight win over their gridiron nemisis. Junior quarterback Drew Miller streaked to a startling 64.8 completion rate and 3,461 yards passing.
With the hiring of offensive coordinator Bob Cole, UM staff had promised things would be a bit different. Pre-season rumors of double tight-end formations and two-back sets proved correct, and the changes worked.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise for Montana was the overwhelming efficiency of running back Yohance Humphery, who captured the starting job from Nate Sanders the second week into the season. Humphery averaged 5.6 yards per carry during the regular season and notched 15 rushing touchdowns. His 1,276 yards of rushing toppled alum Steve Caputo's 28-year-old, single-season UM rushing record.
Montana earned a home game in the first round of NCAA playoffs, hosting the Youngstown State Penquins. The game pitted the two teams with the most wins in this decade--Youngstown with 100 and Montana with 96. The game came down to a missed field goal by Montana with 12 seconds to play. Youngstown State won 30-27 and the Griz ended their season with a 9-3 record.
UM head coach Betsy Duerksen says the ruling changed the focus of her team's entire season. In the past, Duerksen says, Montana's nonconference schedule has been used as an attempt to gain national recognition, in the hopes of nabbing an at-large bid to the NCAA finals.
"It's nice to be on the same page with the rest of the sports," Duerksen said. "Now we can use our nonconference season as a warm-up for the conference season, which is what really counts."
But to the casual observer, the soccer team's 99 nonconference schedule looked like anything but a warm-up. UM faced a host of powerhouses, highlighting their play with a victory over nationally-ranked Northwestern. Montana finished its nonconference schedule at 4-5.
And much to Duerksen's pleasure, Montana dominated conference play and won the Big Sky Championship tournament held in Missoula in October, with a 2-0 victory over Northern Arizona.
For the first time in UM history, Montana advanced to the NCAA tournament, but lost a close 2-1 match with nationally ranked Texas A&M.
First, UM faltered, losing its first two league matches to Idaho State and Weber State. Then head coach Dick Scott was placed on leave of absence by the athletics department.
After Scott's departure, assistant coach Colleen Frohlich took over the team, guiding the Lady Griz into Big Sky Conference tournament play in Sacramento, Calif., where they lost in four games to Northern Arizona.
Chad Dundas, news editor for the Montana Kaimin, also writes for the Missoula Independent.
Grizzlies Back on Top
By Chad Dundas
No one is more pleasantly surprised with both juniors easy transition into maroon and silver than the players themselves. Neither thought things would work out this way.
For Miller, the original blueprint of his college football career showed him guiding Brigham Young University through the competition of the Mountain West Conference. BYUs historically pass-happy offense seemed a perfect fit for him. The All-American high school player had basically rewritten the Washington state record book while playing for Lakes High in Tacoma. And he had always wanted to be a BYU Cougar.
Theyve had incredible success with their quarterbacks and that was very attractive to me, Miller says. I wanted to be part of that.
But it was not to be. The atmosphere at BYU, with its restrictive honor codes and austere regulation of life outside academics, felt foreign to Miller. The only place he was really at home was on the field. Football was football in Provo, he says, which gave him the strength to tough it out for two long years.
Unfortunately, he wasnt seeing satisfactory game time. Miller admits to feeling slighted by his second-string status and says it was the feeling that he wasnt getting a fair chance at BYU that drove him to transfer. I just felt like I deserved a shot, Miller says. Put the ball in my hand. If I cant do it, Ill sit happily on the bench. It came down to playing football. It came down to being happy.
Miller and Hancock found Montana in different ways. Miller remembered the Griz from the teams back-to-back national championship showing and had heard of UMs reputation as a passing school. Hancock discovered the school while surfing the Internet and began corresponding with coaches.
For Hancock, growing up in Salina, Kansas, the Jayhawk football program always had been the biggest show around. When it came to playing college ball, Kansas University was where he wanted to be.
The Jayhawks were coming off a year that garnered them a No. 9 national ranking and an appearance in the Aloha Bowl. Hancocks freshman season he was the teams second leading receiver, but Kansas fell just short of making a bowl that year. During the off-season many Jayhawk coaches left, and Hancock was not crazy about the new leadership. The following year a shoulder separation caused him to miss vital playing time and he gradually saw his active role grow smaller. After another injury to his shoulder, he felt it was time for a change.
Hancock originally was told the Griz didnt need any more receivers. He almost had committed to Big Sky rival Northern Arizona when transfer wide-out Mike Rigell opted to leave UM for junior college. If Mike Rigell hadnt left, Id probably be a Lumberjack right now, Hancock says.
Miller came to Montana at what seemed to be the perfect moment. The quarterback position was in transition, and the Griz were looking to rebound from two sub-par 8-3 seasons. Almost immediately he was heralded as the teams future leader. The spotlight, he admits now, made him uncomfortable at first.
I didnt want to be promised anything, he says. I didnt want to be told, Hey, Drew, youre going to be the guy if you come here. [The hype] totally concerned me.
During regular-season play, Miller and Hancock hooked up for five touchdowns. Hancock was UMs third leading receiver, despite missing two games due to injury. Miller had racked up 3,315 all-purpose yards and was named Division I-AA Player of the Week after Montanas 48-27 Homecoming victory over Cal State-Northridge.
Perhaps being Grizzlies wasnt the original idea for Miller or Hancock, but both say theyre glad they made it. My ultimate goal is to put two rings on my fingers, Hancock says. Anything else that comes from that is great. Im really happy to be here.
Miller, a candidate for the Walter Payton Award, agrees. Its everything I hoped for, he says.
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