Huskies Open 2021 Season Vs. Montana
THE GAME: The Washington football team opens the 2021 season this Saturday, Sept. 4, against traditional NCAA Division I-FCS power Montana. Kickoff is 5:00 p.m. PT and the game will air on Pac-12 Network. The Huskies enter the season ranked No. 21 in the preseason AP Top 25, and No. 20 in the USA Today Sports AFCA Coaches Poll. The Grizzlies, who played just two games last season, going 2-0 during the month of April, 2021, enter the season No. 9 in the preseason FCS rankings. The Huskies went 3-1 and won the Pac-12 North last fall. The Huskies and Grizzlies last met in 2017, but hadn't faced off prior to that since 1951.
QUICK HITTERS: UW played just four games last season, all of them vs. Pac-12 Conference opponents ... the Montana game will mark the Huskies' first non-conference game since their win over Boise State in the 2019 Las Vegas Bowl, and their first at Husky Stadium since Sept. 14, 2019 (vs. Hawai'i) ... last year, in four games, the Huskies didn't lose a fumble, and allowed just one quarterback sack (and, on that play, the UW QB ran out of bounds and wasn't hit) ... 108 of the 125 players on the UW roster are freshmen or sophomores ... 77 are freshmen ... UW RS-freshman Dylan Morris started at QB in the opener last year, joining Jake Locker (RS-freshman in 2007) and Jake Browning (true freshman in 2015) as the only Huskies to start a season opener as a freshman in the modern era ... UW has gone 75 games in a row without allowing an opponent to score more than 35 points, the longest such streak in the nation ... Montana head coach Bobby Hauck spent four seasons (1999-2002) as an assistant coach at UW.
HOME OPENERS: The Huskies are 96-28-5 in home openers (whether the first game of the season or not), a percentage of .764. Washington did not play any home games in the 1890 or 1893 seasons. That mark includes a 28-game streak of home-opener wins that ran from 1908 to 1935. Before falling to Air Force in the 1999 home opener, Washington had won 13 straight such games since having fallen to Oklahoma State on Sept. 7, 1985. The Huskies have won their last 11 home openers in a row, dating back to a loss to No. 11 LSU in 2009.
TELEVISION: The Washington-Montana game will air on Pac-12 Network, with J.B. Long and Max Browne calling the action.
RADIO: All Washington football games will air on the Washington Sports Network from Learfield, with Tony Castricone (play by play), former Husky tight end Cameron Cleeland (analyst) and former UW basketball player Elise Woodward (sidelines) on the call. Radio coverage begins four hours before kickoff on the network's flagship station: Seattle's SportsRadio 950 KJR with "Husky Gameday" live from The Zone for Husky home games. Statewide coverage on the 15-station Washington Sports Network begins two hours before kickoff. The entire broadcast is available worldwide on the Huskies Gameday mobile app and on GoHuskies.com. The UW broadcast of the game will also air on Sirius channel 99 and XM channel 210. Additionally, the Jimmy Lake Show airs each Wednesday during the season (starting Sept. 1), at 6:00 p.m. PT.
HUSKIES vs. GRIZZLIES HISTORY: Washington is 17-1-1 all-time against Montana. The Huskies and Grizzlies had gone more than a half century without playing one another before they met on week two of the 2017 season.
On that occassion, the Huskies were coming off of the Pac-12 championship and a berth in the College Football Playoffs the previous year and had opened the season a week earlier with a 30-14 win at Rutgers.
Washington scored multiple touchdowns in all four quarters and won, 63-7. Quarterback Jake Browning was 22-for-26 for 259 yards and two touchdowns, both to tight end Will Dissly. Meanwhile, five different Huskies scored a rushing touchdown, and Dante Pettis returned a punt 67 yards for a score, breaking the Pac-12 record with the seventh punt return TD of his career. He would go on later that season to set the NCAA record with nine.
Before 2017, all 18 UW-Montana games had come between 1920 and 1951, when for the most part, they were both members of the Pacific Coast Conference.
Of those 18 games, only the 1928 game was played in Missoula, with the rest coming in Seattle. Of those, all but the 1920 meeting were at Husky Stadium, which opened about six weeks after the Grizzlies beat the UW, 18-14, that year – Montana's lone victory in the series. After that UW loss, Washington won seven in a row (including a 32-0 win in Missoula in 1927) before the two teams tied, 6-6, in 1929. After that draw, the Huskies have won the last 10 in a row, with six shutout victories in that stretch.
HUSKIES vs. THE BIG SKY: The Huskies have played games against six of the 13 teams that currently comprise the Big Sky Conference in football, though four of those teams (Eastern Washington, Portland State, Idaho State and Sacramento State) have faced the UW for the first time within in the last decade. Washington has twice edged Eastern Washington in games at Husky Stadium: 30-27 in 2011 and 59-52 in 2014. The Huskies have gone 2-0 vs. Portland State: 52-13 in 2012 (at Lumen Field) and 41-3 in 2016. The Huskies also beat Idaho State, 56-0 in 2013, and Sacramento State, 49-0, in 2015. The two curren t Big Sky opponent the Huskies have played many more times than the others are Montana and Idaho, which were both members of the Pacific Coast Conference (precursor to the Pac-12) along with the UW for majority of those meetings. The Huskies are 17-1-1 all-time vs. the Grizzlies in a stretch of games that ran from 1920 to 1951, and then re-started in 2017. Washington is 36-2-2 vs. Idaho, having played the Vandals somewhat regularly between 1900 and 1973, and then seven times since 2000. Washington has won 19 straight vs. Idaho, dating back to a tie in 1938. Montana left the PCC after the 1950 season, while Idaho was a member until 1959. Combined the UW is 59-3-3 all-time against current Big Sky teams.
EXPERIENCE AND YOUTH: Thanks in part to the extended eligibility that resulted from the pandemic, Washington's 2021 roster is remarkable for both its youth and its experience, all at once. Washington returns 10 starters on offense and eight on defense, along with returning "starters" at kicker (both FG/PAT and kickoff), punter, holder and long snapper. Those numbers are all higher than average. What's more, the roster includes 17 individuals who have started at least one game on offense, and 13 on defense. All totaled, those 29 players (one of them, Alex Cook, has started on offense and defense) have started 212 games (129 on offense, 83 on defense).
All that said, the UW roster includes just six players in their final year of available eligibility: P Race Porter, OLB Ryan Bowman, QB Patrick O'Brien, C Luke Wattenberg, and TBs Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant. Of the 125 players on the current roster, 77 are listed as freshmen (55) or redshirt freshmen (22), while 31 more are sophomores. That means that 108 of 125 players (86 percent) have three or more years of eligibility remaining, entering the 2021 season. The roster includes just 11 juniors, five seniors and one grad transfer.
OPPONENTS 35-AND-UNDER: Washington hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 35 points in a game since a 44-30 loss at UCLA in 2014. That's a streak of 75 games in a row that the Huskies' opponent has failed to score more than 35. In that 75-game stretch, Husky foes have scored 30 or more just 12 times (of those 12, five were exactly 30 points) and have been held to 14 or fewer points 31 times. In that same span of 75 games, the UW has scored more than 35 points on 30 occasions. No other team in the FBS has a current streak longer than 34 games (San Diego State).
DEFENSE vs. BIG PLAYS: Last year (albeit in only four games), Washington's defense allowed just one play from scrimmage for more than 40 yards, tied for fewest in the nation. In 2019, the Huskies gave up just seven such plays of 40 or more yards, the eighth-lowest total (tied) in FBS. The median for 40-plus yard plays allowed in 2019 was 14. Also in 2019, the Huskies allowed just two plays over 50 yards, the third-lowest (tied) total (the median was seven). The year before, the Huskies gave up just ONE scrimmage play of 40 or more yards all season. No other FBS team allowed fewer than four and 102 teams allowed 10 or more that year. In 2017, the UW also led the nation with fewest 40-yard scrimmage plays allowed (3) and were second in fewest 30-yard plays (14). They were tied for 5th and 2nd, respectively, in 2016.
SEASON OPENERS: Washington is 89-36-6 all-time in season openers, good for a mark of .702. Since 1989, Washington has posted an 19-12 record in season openers – 12-1 at home, 7-9 on the road, 0-2 neutral site. In the 31-season span dating back to 1989, the Huskies have opened vs. a ranked team 13 times (5-8): vs. No. 15 Stanford in 1993 (W, 31-14), at No. 17 USC in 1994 (L, 24-17), at No. 20 Arizona State in 1996 (L, 45-42), vs. No. 19 BYU in 1997 (W, 42-20) at No. 8 Arizona State in 1998 (W, 42-38), vs. No. 11 Michigan in 2001 (W, 23-18), at No. 12 Michigan in 2002 (L, 31-29), at No. 2 Ohio State in 2003 (L, 28-9), at No. 21 Oregon in 2008 (L, 44-10), vs. No. 11 LSU in 2009 (L, 31-23), vs. No. 19 Boise State in 2013 (W, 38-6), at No. 23 Boise State in 2015 (L, 16-13), neutral vs. No. 9 Auburn in 2018 (L, 21-16).
HOME vs. NON-CONFERENCE: Washington has been very tough to beat in home, non-conference games over the last several decades. Going back to (and including) the 1981 season, the Huskies have posted a 71-13 record against non-Pac-10/Pac-12 foes in Husky Stadium. Those 13 losses have come to Nebraska (2010), LSU (2009), BYU (2008), Oklahoma (2008), Ohio State (2007), Notre Dame (2005), Fresno State (2004), Nevada (2003), Air Force (1999), Nebraska (1997), Notre Dame (1995), Colorado (1989) and Oklahoma State (1985). Notable wins wins during that stretch include victories over No. 19 Boise State in 2013, No. 22 Boise State in 2007, No. 11 Michigan in 2001, No. 4 Miami in 2000, and No. 12 Nebraska in 1992. Prior to the 2004 loss to Nevada, Washington hadn't lost a home game to a non-league opponent since falling to Air Force, 31-21, on September 18, 1999. The Huskies had won 10 such games before that Nevada loss. The UW has won 20 straight home, non-conference games, dating back to a loss to Nebraska in 2010.