Brian Schwarzkoph will be back behind center Saturday when the Montana Tech football team plays its home opener against Montana Western.
The senior quarterback missed most of training camp with an injury, and Oredigger coach Chuck Morrell said he wasn’t ready to play in Tech’s first two games.
Sophomore transfer Herman Tapley started Tech’s first two games. Tech coach Chuck Morrell didn’t name a starter yet, but he did confirm that Schwarzkoph will be on the turf when the Orediggers christen Bob Green Field.
“Brian is going to play this week,” Morrell said Thursday. “We haven’t decided (who will start) yet, but we’ll definitely play both guys.”
The position is nothing new to Schwarzkoph, who started eight games as a sophomore in 2011. He suffered an injury and then watched on the sideline as Nick Baker thrived at quarterback.
Baker won the job coming out of camp last season, so Schwarzkoph contributed in all 11 games at different positions in 2011. He ran seven times for 49 yards and completed three passes for 37 yards. Schwarzkoph also caught two passes for 13 yards.
When Baker announced he was forgoing his senior season for graduate school just before spring drills, Schwarzkoph looked to be the guy coming out of the summer. That changed when he suffered an injury early in camp.
The Orediggers are 1-1 under Tapley, but the offense struggled in Saturday’s 21-7 loss at Carroll College. Tapley completed just 18 of 34 passes for 121 yards as the Orediggers racked up just 206 yards of total offense.
Morrell didn’t say the return of Schwarzkoph was tied to the offensive struggles. He maintained all along that Schwarzkoph will see time when he was healthy enough.
Morrell also said the offensive struggles can’t be blamed solely on the quarterback.
“By no stretch of the imagination have our offensive failures been tied just to the quarterback position,” Morrell said.
Morrell pointed to a series that was killed by back-to-back penalties and a critical situation when Tapley was sacked.
“It think there’s been a couple of flaws within each position group,” Morrell said. “We’ve just got to get everybody on the same page.”
Morrell said the high-paced offense just needs to settle into the offense and find its rhythm.
“I think it is really important that we move the ball early and when we get scoring opportunities to get the ball in the end zone,” Morrell said.
The coach also said playing with a lead could make a huge difference.
“Some of that ground attack stuff isn’t really effective if you’re playing catch up,” he said.
Saturday’s Tech-Western game certainly won’t be easy for Alan and Donna Hulse of Helena.
The Hulses have reason cheer for both the Bulldogs and the Orediggers. Son Tyler is the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs. Son Zach is a redshirt freshman linebacker for the Orediggers.
Tyler Hulse, who was a receiver last year, has helped guide Western to a 2-0 start. He threw a late game-winning touchdown as Western stunned Southern Oregon in Dillon in their opener.
Zach Hulse will see time in special teams this week. Morrell said he has been working his way up toward seeing serious time on defense.
“I said, ‘When you get an opportunity to sack your brother, how will that be?'” Morrell said with a laugh. “He just kind of smiled.”
Morrell joked with Alan Hulse about which team he is going to cheer for Saturday at Alumni Coliseum.
“They’re really good about it. Their family is very supportive,” Morrell said. ” I was giving his dad a hard time. ‘Are you going to wear a T-shirt that sewn together in the middle that’s half Western and half Orediggers?’ He told me the other day he is just going to wear his Grizzly stuff this weekend.”
The Orediggers will be holding a an all-class football reunion in conjunction with the dedication of the Bob Green Field.
The school is expecting a huge turnout of former Oredigger players from the past few decades. That won’t impact how the Orediggers play, Morrell said.
“It’s going to be fun,” Morrell said. “We don’t put added pressure on ourselves. We put pressure on ourselves every week. I take my guys through the same preparation steps, no matter if its Carroll, if its Western or if it’s a playoff game or it’s Dickinson. It doesn’t matter.”
Morrell said his team is just glad to finally play a home game. The legion of Orediggers on hand will only make it better.
“Our guys are excited to play in front of a big crowd on Saturday,” the coach said. “It’s a great opportunity to interact with a lot of people who have had an impact on this program for a lot of years.”