Bobby Hauck's first offseason back as Montana football's head coach can best be classified as up and down. His return sparked excitement around the storied FCS program and its passionate following. But there was also some movement on the roster that made fans a little nervous and wondering if the train was a little too far off the tracks to turn the team around in one year.
The most notable departure was last year's starting quarterback Gresch Jensen deciding to transfer. Jensen was a 2017 First Team HERO Sports Freshman All-American who threw for 2,531 yards, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and added another six scores on the ground in seven starts.
But during the spring, Jensen and transfer Dalton Sneed were in a battle for the starting spot. Early indications were Sneed looked to be Hauck's guy. In April, Jensen announced he would pursue other opportunities. And understandably, some fans didn't react favorably. After all, Jensen was thought to be "the franchise" for the next three years after such a standout freshman campaign.
Instead, the reigns were firmly in Sneed's hands entering this season. And so far the junior, who started his career at UNLV before playing the 2017 season at Fort Scott Community College, has shown he's capable of making the Grizzlies a Big Sky power once again.
Montana is out to a 4-1 start. The lone loss came at 2017 playoff participant Western Illinois where the Griz gave up a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose 31-27. Besides that hiccup, the team is playing well and maybe ahead of schedule. More specifically, the offense is showing some explosion by averaging 38.0 points per game.
Behind an inexperienced offensive line, Sneed has shown the Griz can still do damage through the air even with a new starting quarterback and new offensive system.
Sneed has taken care of the ball as well with only three interceptions. In a conference known for its incredible quarterback play, Sneed is third with 254.8 passing yards per game.
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Maybe more importantly, Sneed is a dual-threat guy who is just as dangerous running the football.
Montana has struggled to get its running backs going early in the season. Sneed has stepped up to lead the team with his 397 yards and 6.3 yards per carry.
In a crucial Big Sky opening contest against Sacramento State, a team looking to push for a playoff spot, Sneed dominated on the ground for 206 yards and three touchdowns. The Griz pulled out a 41-34 win.
While it's still early in the year, Sneed should be the front-runner for Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year. His 334.2 yards of total offense a game leads the conference and is fifth in the FCS.
Not bad for a guy who the fan base didn't expect to be the starting quarterback until the spring.