Ducks inside linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia (41) dives over a Wolf Pack player. Oregon Ducks football takes on the Nevada Wolf Pack at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. on Sept. 7, 2019. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Oregon will close out its non-conference schedule against the Montana Grizzlies on Saturday night at Autzen Stadium. 

The Grizzlies will be heavy underdogs, especially after the Ducks dismantled Nevada 77-6 last weekend. In order to win, Montana will need to play a near-perfect game on both sides of the ball. 

They aren’t an FBS team, but the Grizzlies come to Eugene ranked No. 18 in the most recent FCS Coaches Poll. Montana is 2-0 to start the season and is fresh off a blowout win against North Alabama, 61-17. In that game, wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee returned a punt for a 74-yard touchdown and earned Big Sky Special Teams Player of the Week. Louie-McGee returned five kicks for 150 yards in the game. 

On opening week, Montana won convincingly on the road against South Dakota 31-17. Quarterback Dalton Sneed threw for an eye-popping 430 yards and three touchdowns. The explosive Grizzlies offense finished with 510 total yards. 

The Grizzlies will come to Eugene hoping that their high-octane offense will be effective against a top-15 team; they are averaging 46 points per game so far on the season. Montana’s air attack averages 361 yards per game and the team, on average, gains 158 yards on the ground. However, these gaudy statistics are against non-Power 5 teams, and the Ducks will be the biggest challenge Montana will face this season.

Quarterback Dalton Sneed will lead the offense against Oregon; the redshirt senior has thrown for 696 yards and four touchdowns on the young season. He’s also a dual-threat scrambler that can use his legs to get a first down when needed. Sneed’s college football journey started at UNLV, where he had a memorable 91-yard touchdown run, the longest in program history. He then transferred to Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, before joining the Grizzlies in 2018. 

At the skill positions, Samuel Akem will be the name to watch against Oregon’s experienced secondary. The wide receiver from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma is the Grizzlies top pass catcher and the No. 2 returning receiver in the Big Sky Conference. In Montana’s season opener against South Dakota, Akem caught nine passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. Montana will need the Sneed-Akem combination to be firing on all cylinders if they want a shot at keeping it close against Oregon. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Grizzlies have only conceded an average of 17 points in two games. Montana’s leading tackler is safety Robby Hauck, who has 19 tackles and an interception heading into Saturday. The sophomore has an impressive resume, finishing seventh in the voting for the FCS Jerry Rice Top Freshman Award in 2018. 

Linebacker Dante Olson has a team-high two tackles for a loss, and fellow linebacker Jace Lewis leads the team with a single sack. This Montana defense will be tested against an Oregon offense that put up 623 total yards and 77 points against Nevada.

The Grizzlies are 37.5-point underdogs, but they’ll present some challenges for the Ducks. Montana’s offense boasts a talented veteran quarterback, an elite pass catcher and a return man that has a knack for finding the end zone. Don’t expect them to win this game, but there will certainly be intriguing matchups all over the field.