First Look

FIRST LOOK: Griz welcome Dixie State, new to Division I, to Missoula


The Montana Grizzlies will get a nice pick-me-up after their first loss of the season, returning to Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Saturday to face winless Dixie State.

The Grizzlies (3-1, 1-1 Big Sky Conference) lost 34-28 to Eastern Washington a week ago in Cheney, giving up a second-half lead as the Eagles scored 24 points in the fourth quarter.

The loss dropped Montana to No. 6 in the national poll heading into the Grizzlies’ game against Dixie State.

The Trailblazers (0-4) are one of the newest Division I programs in the country. They announced their move up from Division II in 2019 and started the process in 2020 as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.

Without a full WAC schedule in 2021, Dixie State is playing one of the hardest slates in the country. Montana will be the Trailblazers’ fourth ranked opponent in four games. They’ve lost the previous three, to No. 18 Weber State, No. 8 UC Davis and No. 3 South Dakota State, by a combined score of 156-37.

“Certainly, we are not pleased about dropping that game last weekend,” Montana head coach Bobby Hauck said. “We have to get on to the next one.

“Dixie has played a very difficult schedule. I spent some time today watching their game against Sacramento State (a 19-7 Hornets win in Week 1) and that was a very entertaining game to watch.”


Location: St. George, Utah

Nickname: Trailblazers. The nickname is represented with a bison mascot.

Founded: 1911. Originally founded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Dixie State was a two-year college until 2000.

Enrollment: 11,193 as of fall 2019.

Stadium: Greater Zion Stadium, formerly Hansen Stadium, was built in 1985 and holds over 10,500.

Notable alumni: Corey Dillon, professional football player; Dave Rose, former BYU basketball coach; John Moses Browning, firearms designer.


Paul Peterson, third season at Dixie State (10-10)

Dixie State Athletics

Peterson is plenty familiar with the Big Sky after spending most of the 2010s as an assistant in the conference, first at Southern Utah and then at Sacramento State.

After spending five years as the offensive coordinator with the Hornets, Utah JUCO Snow College gave him his first shot as a head coach in 2017. Dixie State hired him away from the Badgers two years later.

In his playing career, Peterson was the quarterback before Matt Ryan at Boston College, starting two years and being named the Eagles’ offensive MVP as a senior in 2004.

He had a brief stint in the Canadian Football League before starting his coaching career as an assistant at Snow, BYU and North Carolina State.

He took his first long-term job at Southern Utah in 2008, spending four years in Cedar City as the quarterbacks coach. One of his proteges, Brad Sorensen, was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2013.

That was shortly after Peterson had moved to Sacramento State, where he coached another of the Big Sky’s great recent quarterbacks, Garrett Safron.


RB Drew Kannely-Robles, 6-0, 200, Sr.

Dixie State Athletics

Points have been hard to come by for Dixie State, which, as mentioned, has played maybe the toughest schedule in the FCS so far.

Trailblazers quarterbacks — they’ve played three — have thrown five touchdowns against 12 interceptions, and the team is averaging an even two yards per carry.

In that context, Kannely-Robles’ four yards per carry is pretty damn good. He only has 121 yards on the ground, but has exactly matched that total with 121 yards on 12 catches as well, making him the team’s third-leading receiver.

The redshirt senior has been at Dixie State since 2019 after transferring from College of the Siskiyous.

WR Jalen Powell, 5-10, 185, Sr.

Dixie State Athletics

Powell followed Peterson from Snow College to Dixie State in the 2019 season, and has been a consistent threat for the Trailblazers since then, with 557 yards in 2019 and 305 in five games in the spring.

That spring season included a 104-yard game against FBS New Mexico State.

Powell leads the team with 30 catches for 242 yards so far this fall. That reception total is over twice as many as any other player on the team.


LB Malaki Malaki, 6-2, 225, Jr.

Dixie State Athletics

Malaki, originally from American Samoa, played right away as a freshman for the Trailblazers in 2018.

He was then honorable mention all-RMAC in 2019, and led the team in tackles in the 2021 spring season with 39 in five games. That included 19 tackles, 2.5 TFLs and a forced fumble against New Mexico State.

Dixie State’s defense has predictably struggled since giving up 17 points in a season-opening loss against Sacramento State (the Hornets scored a safety in a 19-7 win), but Malaki has been a bright spot.

He’s second on the team with 38 tackles and tied for first with five tackles for loss.

DB Tyrell Grayson, 6-0, 175, Fr.

Dixie State Athletics

Grayson is one of the ubiquitous “COVID freshmen” who’ve already been on campus for over two years.

He redshirted in 2019 and played a little in the 2021 spring season, but has taken a bigger step forward in the fall.

The defensive back from Fresno, California, is leading the team with 45 tackles, of which a whopping 38 are solo efforts, and has also added a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.

About Andrew Houghton

Andrew Houghton grew up in Washington, DC. He graduated from the University of Montana journalism school in December 2015 and spent time working on the sports desk at the Daily Tribune News in Cartersville, Georgia, before moving back to Missoula and becoming a part of Skyline Sports in early 2018.

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