Griz Homecoming streak ends

MISSOULA  – A couple of our more well-known and popular cliches are “streaks are meant to be broken,” and sometimes that goes for hearts too.

Both of those things took place Saturday afternoon in The University of Montana’s Washington-Grizzly Stadium, as the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks defeated the Grizzlies 41-31 in UM’s annual Homecoming Game and the teams’ 2012 Big Sky Conference opener.

As for the streaks, NAU (3-1/1-0) snapped a 14-game winning skein by UM (2-2/0-1), and the Grizzlies had also registered 19 Homecoming victories in a row, which dated back to the 1992 season.  It was also the first win ever for NAU mentor Jerome Souers, a former (1986-97) longtime assistant coach at UM, who is in his 14tth season as the head man in Flagstaff.

As for the broken hearts, most of the 25,254 fans on hand were loyal members of Griz Nation, and the all obviously walked away from the stadium this afternoon extremely bummed out.  Junior halfback Zach Bauman rushed for a career-high 253 yards along with 3 touchdowns to lead the Jacks, and the NAU defense forced five Griz turnovers to spoil the day for the Griz faithful.

It was a game of two completely halves for the home-standing Grizzlies.

Montana rallied from an early 7-0 deficit and scored 24 unanswered points, and the Grizzlies took a 24-7 lead with 13:16 remaining in the second quarter on a 12-yard touchdown run by senior halfback/fullback Dan Moore.

But after Moore’s scoring run gave the home team a 17-point advantage, NAU racked up six consecutive unanswered scores, and took a commanding 41-24 lead on Bauman’s third scoring run of the afternoon, this on a 2-yarder with just 5:53 left in the contest.

The Griz finally got on the board after more than a 40-minutes scoring drought, as sophomore quarterback Shay Smithwick-Hann hit redshirt freshman wide receiver Ellis Henderson on a 45-yard touchdown pass with 1:58 left to go.

Bauman showed a sign of things to come on a NAU’s first play from scrimmage, as the 5-10, 200-pounder broke loose for a 11-second, 75-yard scoring run, giving the Jacks an early 7-0 lead.

But, the Griz bounced right back, as redshirt freshman kicker Chris Lider hit a 27-yard field goal, and then Moore re-gained the lead for his team on a 6-yard scoring run (which was set up thanks to a blocked punt by junior tight end Clay Pierson), making it 10-7 UM with 9:49 left in the first quarter.  Moore’s scoring burst was followed by a 31-yard TD jaunt by redshirt freshman Trent McKinney, and then Moore’s 12-yard score, but those 24 points would be all that Montana would muster.

NAU cut the Griz lead to 10 points with 9:15 left in the second quarter on a 3-yard run by senior transfer (Cal) Covaughn DeBoksie-Johnson, and it ended up 24-14 UM at halftime.

The Jacks took the lead back for good in the third quarter on a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Cary Grossart to sophomore tight end R. J. Rickert , which was followed up by a pair of field goals by junior kicker Andy Wilder, and Wilder’s 23-yarder with 1:49 left in the third stanza gave NAU the lead 27-24) for good.

Bauman, who had 29 carries, gave NAU some breathing room, scoring on touchdown runs of 20 and 2 yards in the final quarter, the second scoring run coming with 5:53 left to play in the contest.

McKinney had a solid first half, going 13-of-17-1 for 161 yards and rushing five times for 50 yards.  But he struggled in the final two quarters, and finished the game 20-of-34-3 for 199 yards, and had 49 total rushing yards due to two sacks.

Senior wide receiver Sam Gratton had a game-high 5 catches for 72 yards, while Henderson had 3 grabs for 99 yards and a TD.

Moore led the Griz with 12 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns, but fumbled twice, and both miscues were recovered by NAU.

Brock Coyle had a career and game-high 15 tackles, while fellow junior linebacker Jordan Tripp added 12 stops.  Sophomore end Zack Wagenmann and junior safety Bo Tully had 10 tackles each.

Grossart, who had missed NAU’s previous two games because of a knee injury, was 16-of-23-0 for 138 yards and one touchdown.

It does not get any easier for Montana, as it plays at 9th-ranked Eastern Washington (which plays at Weber State this evening) next Saturday, Sept. 29 in Cheney.  NAU hosts Portland State next Saturday.

– UM Sports Information