MISSOULA — It wasn’t pretty, but the Montana Grizzlies got the job done in Pocatello, Idaho, on Saturday with a 28-20 victory over Idaho State.
Numerous self-inflicted errors made the game closer than the Grizzlies would have liked.
In UM’s first four games, the Griz had three total turnovers, but on Saturday against Idaho State, the Grizzlies turned him three times in the one game, which allowed Idaho State to win him. keeping close for most of the first half and then mounting a comeback late in the game.
The Griz have had success in several places — most notably in the running game with 246 rushing yards — but head coach Bobby Hauck said there are plenty of areas to clean up.
“We executed, when you look at the numbers, it wasn’t an execution thing,” Hauck said. “Again, it’s up to us to give the ball away. They kicked the ball on fourth down a few times and they played the game, we didn’t, good for them.”
Lucas Johnson threw his second interception of the season on UM’s first drive, and in the second quarter Kale Edwards fumbled the ball on a short kickoff return. Along with that, an early targeting call on safety TraJon Cotton ejected him from the game, and the Bengals were able to extend their second drive with a pair of fourth conversions, one of which came after an interference call from pass from Garrett Graves and the other on an ISU QB sneak where UM’s defense didn’t look ready for the ball to be broken. UM ultimately held ISU to a basket after an Alex Gubner sack, as the Bengals cut it to a 7-6 second quarter deficit.
Tyler Flink’s interception late in the second quarter proved to be the turning point, as it gave Montana momentum with a well-timed stoppage after the Bengals found that early success on offense.
“Nothing really discourages this defense in my opinion,” said Gubner, who finished with 1.5 sacks and six total tackles. “When things happen in the game, like last week (against Portland State), they scored on that sweep and we came back and did our thing. I think one thing we do is bounce back. We don’t let the past predict the future.”
Quickly, Griz’s offense took advantage of that turnover with a pair of touchdowns, including a two-yard score by Marcus Knight and a 24-yard connection between Johnson and Keelan White that capped the two-minute offense of UM just before halftime, and the Grizzlies went into the break 21-6.
“It just comes down to making plays,” Hauck said of the momentum. “You have to make plays, it helps when you win on the first down and you become more manageable and we’ve covered a lot of distance because we were running it so well. It makes the third down easier. I thought the plan was good, I thought we executed it pretty well, but it’s the mistakes that derail you.”
The Grizzlies led 28-6 in the third quarter after a rigged onside connection between Mitch Roberts and Cole Grossman, but in the fourth quarter and on the Idaho State two-yard line, Johnson tried to keep it himself. even on a scramble, but fumbled before the goal line and the ball went into the end zone and out of bounds for a touchback, which prevented Montana from putting the game away.
While it was too little, too late, Idaho State scored twice in the streak to close out the game as it showed how important it is to finish games, especially on the road. .
But at the end of the day, the Grizzlies finished with the win to improve to 5-0 on the year and 2-0 to start league play, and they will now focus on improving performance. from Saturday going forward as they head into the bye week before their next game, a home game against Idaho on Oct. 15.
“Just keep working, definitely don’t get complacent because this game wasn’t our best and it’s not as good as we are,” said Knight, who finished with 109 rushing yards. “We’re very well ranked so we have to act like that. We have to play like that and we’re going to prepare hard, we always do, so it’s just getting back on our pace and performing better next week.”