Defense leads Griz scrimmage

RONAN — Defense was the dominant theme as The University of Montana Grizzly football team held its annual Spring Game, Saturday afternoon (April 13) on a windy, cool day at the Laverne Parrish Memorial Field in Ronan.

The defense pressured the quarterbacks all afternoon long, and held to the offense to just 227 yards (on 76 plays) and a handful of first downs, and also registered seven sacks and grabbed four interceptions.

Both sides of the football were given several different ways to score, which was based on their performances in different phases of the game, and the “D” came out on top for a 30-13 victory.

“Defensively, like I’ve said since day one and over the last three weeks, we should be that good on defense and we are,” said Griz head coach Mike Delaney.  “Right now a very, very good defensive football team.

“We’ve got as lot of guys (the Griz return 10 starters on defense from last season) who can play on that side of the ball,” Delaney said.  “We go 16, 17, maybe 18 deep on defense, which means we can make substitutions and keep guys fresh, and I am just extremely excited about that aspect of our football team.  I was also excited about the turnovers forced by our ‘D’ today.  The corners are really breaking well on the ball, and we’re 200 percent better at that than we were a year ago.”

The four quarterbacks who saw action struggled in the passing game, and the wind, which ranged from around 20 to 25-miles-per hour, was definitely a factor in throwing the football.  The quarterbacks ended up completing 36 percent of their passes, going a combined 9-of-25), along with those four picks mentioned earlier.

Sophomore linebacker Jeremiah Kose paced the defense with two sacks, and he also had tackle for loss.  Senior linebacker Jordan Tripp added a sack, a tackle for loss, and a pass deflection.

Junior cornerback Joshua Dennard had two pass deflections.  Sophomore safety Zach Gratton blocked a field goal.

One of the bright spots on offense was the running of junior halfback Jordan Canada, who gained 109 yards on 18 carries, and scored the only offensive touchdown of the day on a 2-yard run.  Senior Marlon Miles, who was moved from cornerback to halfback this spring, added 29 yards on 8 totes.

Montana was missing two of its top running backs, as juniors Travon Van and Brett Kirschner did not participate today because of injuries they suffered in practice last week.

“I am not disappointed with the offense,” Delaney said.  “We obviously struggled at times a little bit today, but there’s a lot of new things to learn out there.  “Jordy (junior quarterback Jordan Johnson) hasn’t played a lot of football in game type situations for almost a year now, and we’ve got some young offensive linemen with the twos.  We will be fine there.

“I thought Jordan Canada competed and had a great day today,” Delaney said.  “We were really down to one running back with much experience with Travon and ‘Kirsch’ out, and we had some inconsistencies, but I know that we’ll get that squared around.”

Sophomore Stephen Shaw was also a bright spot, averaging 48.6 yards on five punts, with a 54 and 59-yarder, although his 59-yarder was a touchback.

The Griz have four more practices left in spring drills: Monday, April 15; Wednesday, April 17; Thursday, April 18; and they wrap things up on Friday, April 19, with a scrimmage in Washington-Grizzly Stadium that starts at 7:00 p.m.

RUSHING (50-146): Jordan Canada 18-109, Marlon Miles 8-29, Joey Counts 2-8, Zach Heideman 9-8, Chase Naccarato 1-3, Jordan Johnson 9-1, Brady Gustafson 1-minus 2, Trent McKinney 2-minus 10.

PASSING (9-26-4 for 81 yards): Jordan Johnson 5-11-2 for 44 yards; Brady Gustafson 2-4-0 for 26 yards; Shay Smithwick-Hann 2-6-0 for 11 yards; Trent McKinney 0-4-2 for 0 yards; Naccarato for 0-1-0 for 0 yards.

RECEIVING: Taylor Walcott 2-16, Miles 1-25, Ellis Henderson 1-13, Counts 1-12, Heideman 1-9, Aschan Richards 1-4, Canada 1-3, Jonathan Richards 1-2.

DEFENSIVE LEADERS: SACKs: Jeremiah Kose 2, Caleb Kidder, Alex Bienemann, Derek Crittenden, Ryan Johnson, Jordan Tripp.  TFLs: Kose, Kelsey Lippert, Joshua Dennard, Sean Murray, Tripp.

PDs: Dennard 2, Zach Peevey, Tonga Takai, Tripp.  INTs: Ryan Johnson, Addison Owen, Nate Harris, Justin Whitted.  BLOCKS: Zach Gratton (Field Goal).

SCORING: Nate Harris, 10-yard interception return (Chris Lider kick).  Addison Owen 32-yard interceptions return (Lider kick).  Jordan Canada, 2 run (Lider kick).  Lider 43 Field Goal.  Lider, 40 Field Goal.

— UM Sports Information