|« JSU QB Therriault stays grounded despite skill as passer||Healthy Maliska anchors Holy Cross defensive line »|
Griz' Hughes earns another badge
Montana senior Ben Hughes might be just as good at tackling problems off the field as he is at tackling opponents on it.
Hughes, a 6-foot, 285-pound senior from Grants Pass, Ore., was named the Big Sky Conference defensive player of the week after his effort against Tennessee in the season opener. He tallied 10 tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and recorded a safety in Montana’s 42-16 loss on the road to the Southeastern Conference school. Hughes recorded five solo tackles and five assisted tackles.
Some might say the league honor isn’t Hughes’ most impressive accomplishment. He has also earned Eagle Scout status in the Boy Scouts after developing a new harvesting plan for a charitable Oregon pear grower.
“I organized their harvesting system,” Hughes said. “I redid it to make it more efficient. They donate most of their pears to welfare programs. If they do sell them, it’s like for pennies on the pear.”
Hughes said his parents started him in scouting, but it was his choice to stick with it.
“Every one of their kids started,” said Hughes, who has two older brothers. “We could stop if we didn’t like it or stay with it. We just had to try it. I ended up going all the way.”
Hughes, who played at Shasta Junior College (Redding, Calif.) for two years before joining the Griz, exceeded his 2010 statistics with just one game. He was credited with six tackles - three in the season opener against Western State - in seven games last season.
In the third quarter against Tennessee, Hughes beat the Volunteers’ Alex Bullard to wrap up running back Tauren Poole in the end zone for safety, cutting the Vols’ lead to 28-9. Hughes helped Montana limit Tennessee to just 2.8 yards per rushing attempt.
Q: How many texts, emails and phone calls did you receive after being selected as league’s defensive player of the week?
A: I’ve been getting a ton of emails and phone calls from friends and family. It’s been pretty cool.
Q: Who was the first person you told the news?
A: My parents.
Q: How did they watch the game?
A: The ordered it on pay-per-view in Oregon.
Q: Are they going to be able to attend any games this year?
A: They’re coming to a couple. They’re coming to this weekend’s game and a few scattered through out the season. They’re coming to Sac State, which is cool because it’s only about a six-hour drive from my hometown in Oregon.
Q: Have you ever had as much success in a game like you did against Tennessee?
A: Since I’ve been in college, no. It’s been my best game by far.
Q: If you didn’t have the attention of opposing coaches and players going into this season, you have it now after your performance against Tennessee. What do you attribute to the jump in your production on the field?
A: I think I had good coaches helping me concentrate on technique because I’m an undersized player, and just having the chance to play because there were some good guys in front of me last year.
Q: From your perspective, did Tennessee make any adjustments on offense as the game wore on?
A: It didn’t seem like it. What we studied on them held true. They kept doing that the whole game.
Q: Did they ever try to double team you?
A: Yeah, they tried to double team me quite a few times.
Q: This week’s opponent, Cal Poly, is coming off a 49-21 loss to San Diego State. What is something Cal Poly does well on offense that the Griz need to be aware of to be successful?
A: The offensive line comes off the line low and quickly. Those guys are going to be in your legs every single play. They almost bear crawl at you when they run.
Q: Cal Poly, who will join the Big Sky Conference as a football only member in 2012, beat Montana last year 35-33 in California. Does that matter at all this year?
A: I’m sure it’s in the back of everyone’s mind. It has the fire burning a little, but we’ve kind of gotten over that and it’s a new year.
Q: What is your routine on game days?
A: Pretty much just relaxing and nothing out of the ordinary. Get a good meal, stretch, get taped up and do some more stretching. Maybe go over my tip sheet or watch more video. Mainly it’s just about getting my mind right and relaxing.
Q: Who on the Griz offensive line is the most difficult for you to beat in practice?
A: Steve Sabin, at center. We bang heads every day in practice. We end up learning from each other so it becomes harder to beat each other in practice.
Q: What rule in college football would you like to change?
A: I think it would be cool to be able to celebrate a little bit more after a big play. They’re taking it too far. You can be called for unsportsmanlike conduct for just about anything.
Q: What kind of weather do you prefer to play football in?
A: Not hot weather, not cold weather. 70 to 80 degrees with the sun out.
Q: What is your hometown, Grants Pass in southwestern Oregon, like?
A: Small town. It’s kind of a football town. Friday nights the place to be is at the football field. When I was in high school we’d get 5,000 to 6,000 at a game. There’s not a lot to do. We’d stay busy camping or go out to the rivers.
Q: Your high school sports teams are known as the Cavemen. The mascot is a reference to the Oregon Caves National Monument, which is a tourist attraction in nearby Cave Junction, Ore., according to my deadly accurate sources on the internet. Have you ever been to the Oregon Caves National Monument, and if so, what is it like?
A: I’ve been like a couple times. I went with field trips in elementary and middle school. It’s pretty cool. You walk for miles in the caves. They have it all roped off with lights so you can see where you’re going, but it’s pretty amazing to see.
Q: You earned a varsity letter in tennis while in high school. Do you still play tennis?
A: I don’t play tennis anymore.
Q: What do you like to do away from the football field?
A: I really like going to the lake or river and just relax. We’re so busy all the time it’s nice to get away and relax.
Q: Before you came to Montana, you played junior college football in Redding, Calif. What is Redding like?
A: Super hot. I think it’s the second hottest city behind Phoenix. It’s small when you compare it to California towns. Lake Shasta is right there and everyone seems to have a boat, so we’d always be out at the lake. The heat was killer though.
Q: Are you familiar with the soft drink, or soda pop if you prefer, brand Shasta?
A: Yeah, I am.
Q: If so, what is your favorite Shasta flavor?
A: Root beer. Is that one of their flavors? I don’t drink it that much.
Q: Who was your favorite football player growing up?
A: Warren Sapp because I was always playing D-line and he was always the best.
By SCOTT JOHNSON, for the Missoulian