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Thứ Hai, 30 tháng 3, 2015

Griz hope break doesn't sap momentum - The Missoulian

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Spring break in college circles means putting aside schoolwork for sun, beaches and -- often times -- imbibing. But the Montana Grizzlies would rather just rest.

"That's the No. 1 goal in everybody's mind," junior defensive tackle Caleb Kidder said, "to get our legs back underneath us."

The Grizzlies have run hard this spring under the guidance of first-year head coach Bob Stitt, taking to the turf of Washington-Grizzly Stadium thrice weekly for 3-hour-plus practices.

The afternoon sessions are as much a spectacle as training opportunities, non-stop action on both ends of the field as part of Montana's coordinated effort to implement the quickest offense in the land.

And a defense capable of running with said O.

The work seemed to be paying off at last week's scrimmage, the second of three this spring. The offense generated sustained drives and lit the scoreboard with its first two touchdowns.

But then the calendar got in the way. The Grizzlies are off this week during the university's spring break, a 12-day football hiatus that began last Thursday and won't repeal until next Monday, April 6.

"We need to come back and we need to be able to pick up where we left off," Stitt said following last week's scrimmage, referring mostly to his offense's gradual maturation. "We can't take any steps back on Monday. We need to be able to knock the rust off very quickly."

To do so, Montana's new offensive playbook will accompany players wherever they stray during their week away from the field. They'll lift weights and pore over assignments -- homework during a stretch meant for no studying.

"We're 100 percent into the playbook, but we don't use everything all the time," said sophomore quarterback Makena Simis, one of three getting part-time reps as a backup to first-stringer Brady Gustafson. "If you were to call it, we have to know it."

The comfort the offense exuded in last week's scrimmage came from added understanding of the playbook, Simis added. The side's first live encounter with the defense the week before -- tough slogging for the men with the ball to say the least -- came when they were first grasping the concepts.

"We implemented a little bit more of our offense, which helps a lot when you have more variety," Simis added.

What was once overwhelming is beginning to come into focus, Gustafson agreed.

"When coach Stitt and (quarterbacks coach Andrew) Selle came in, they kind of threw it all at us," said Gustafson, a junior who took first-team reps in Thursday's scrimmage. "We've done a pretty good job of handling it, all of us players. We've just got to keep getting reps and expanding the knowledge of the offense."

But there aren't too many more opportunities for reps this spring. Montana's first return to practice next week will come in warm-up fashion with players going lighter in just helmets and shorts.

Wednesday and Friday will provide the final opportunities to fine-tune this spring's lessons in full practice mode behind closed doors. Because the following Saturday, April 11, the Griz will unveil their 2015 look to fans from across the state at the annual spring game in Helena.

"We need to look like a football team on Saturday," Stitt said.

The spring game this year is being held in conjunction with Carroll College as part of a scrimmage doubleheader. The Saints will take the field first for their intrasquad work at 11 a.m. before the Grizzlies complete the football twin bill at 1 p.m.

Both games are at Carroll's Nelson Stadium.

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