Griz ready for Spring Game

MISSOULA — The University of Montana Grizzly football team held its final practice prior to tomorrow’s annual Spring Game, completing practice No. 10 on Friday afternoon/early evening in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

Griz Spring Numerical Roster

The Grizzlies’ Spring Game is Saturday in Ronan, with kickoff at noon at the Laverne Parrish Memorial Field. Tailgating before the scrimmage starts at 10a.m.

Griz head coach Mick Delaney said he was pleased with today’s practice.

“Tonight was better,” he said.  “We just found ourselves not practicing the way we have to to be successful, and that’s my fault.  In our previous to practices we had guys on the ground; we had guys grabbing each other and guys pushing each other in the back.  We had a real heart-to-heart meeting before practice today, and talked about we were playing undisciplined and not playing smart.  I think we got that straightened out tonight.

“We executed really well today and looked crisp,” Delaney said.  “We went a little shorter today and just came out in shoulder pads because of tomorrow (the scrimmage), and the pace and tempo was sharp today.  We did a lot of red zone work today for the first time, and we really needed that, and some good things happened there.  We threw a touchdown pass or two, plus the defense got an interception, so we got good plays from the offense and from the defense.

“The most pleasant thing that happened so far this spring happened tonight, and that was when our kickers (sophomore Chris Lider and redshirt freshman Harrison Greenberg) ended up going eight-for-eight (on field goal attempts),” Delaney said.

“It’s (Saturday’s scrimmage) is competition again, best against best, and at this point you just want to see execution, alignment and assignment stuff, where we are not making mistakes on either side of the football,” Delaney said.  “What I really want to see is a ton of emotion, and excitement and enthusiasm — and guys who like playing football and are having fun doing that.  They’re working hard and getting after it, and I think the effort they show tomorrow will be as important as anything.”

The “Top 10″ from practice No. 10:

1. In “skelly” drills junior QB Jordan Johnson looked very sharp again.  “JJ” opened things up by completing 4-of-5 passes, the first two to sophomore wide receivers Ellis Henderson (15 yards) and Taylor Walcott (25 yards), and then a 7-yarder to senior tight end Clay Pierson, followed by an 8-yard hook-up with Cam “Mouse” Warren, those coming in first two series of the day.

2. Redshirt freshman Ryan Johnson (#97 from Vancouver, Wash.) continues to impress and sacked sophomore QB Trent McKinney.

3. After a few series in both skelly and 11–on-11, Warren had 5 catches for 70 yards, and a pair of short touchdown grabs ( and 3 yards).

4.  Johnson completed a pin-point pass to junior wide receiver Sean Haynes, good for a 35-yard touchdown in 11-on-11 drills, which started from the 35-yard line of the defense.  Haynes, who has very good speed at 6-3, 185, has been much more consistent catching the ball so far this spring.

5. Coyle had an outstanding interception (on pass by redshirt freshman Brady Gustafson), but was injured just a couple of plays after his pick.

7.  In the punting portion of practice, sophomore Stephen Shaw had five attempts (out of nine punts) of 50 yards or more, and most had excellent hang time.  His shortest punts were two from 40 yards out.

8. Sophomore running back Joey Counts scored on a 16-yard run up the middle in the red zone offense portion of practice.  Junior Jordan Canada continues to excel, and broke free for a 15-yard TD two plays later.

9. Sophomore linebacker Addison Owen had an interception in the red zone.

10.  As Coach Delaney eluded to earlier, the kickers each made four field goals in a row to close out the practice.  Lider made four in a row from 20, 30, 33, 37 yards out, while Greenberg was good from 20, 28, 33, and 38.

GRIZ GRIDIRON MISC. NOTES: Unfortunately the injuries are adding up, although none of them are thought to be serious at this time.  Talented junior halfback Travon Van missed practice the last two days, and unfortunately will be held out of Saturday’s scrimmage.  Junior wide receiver Mitch Saylor and junior halfback Brett Kirschner were both injured in practice this past Wednesday, and are also out.  Coyle is also doubtful for Saturday’s scrimmage.

Some interesting national rankings from last season:  Did you know Montana was ranked fourth in the nation in rush defense, allowing 92.55 yards per game, while offensively the Griz were 12th in the FCS total offense, gaining 452.27 yards a game?

Did you know, Part II: That McKinney’s screen pass for Dan Moore at Appalachian State that went for an 87-yard touchdown tied for the fifth longest passing play in school history?

Did you know, Part III: Peter Nguyen’s 90-yard punt return for a TD against Liberty last season was the second longest in UM history?  Marc Mariani (94, vs. Idaho State, 2008) and Tuff Harris (94, at Eastern Washington, 2006) share the record.

FUN FACT: Redshirt wide receiver Ryan Burke (#83) listed on his Griz Player Favorites List, on the section that asks “Many people don’t know this about me, but”: by writing “I have been inside a nuclear submarine.”

— UM Sports Information