MISSOULA — The University of Montana Grizzlies displayed a potent running game and scored on six of their first eight possessions and carried that momentum on their way to a convincing 70-24 victory over the Idaho State Bengals in a Big Sky Conference game Saturday afternoon in UM’s Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
The win boosted Montana’s record to 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the league, while ISU is now 1-7 and 0-5.
The Grizzlies rushed 61 times for 379 yards and 6 touchdowns, and racked up 605 total yards and narrowly missed a school record by picking up 33 (the record of 34 was set in UM’s 2012 opener against South Dakota) first downs. The Bengals did get 332 yards passing, but were limited to 35 yards rushing.
The Grizzlies raced to a 21-3 lead in the first quarter, scoring on a 9-yard scoring by sophomore halfback Jordan Canada, a 17-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Shay Smithwick-Hann, and a 7-yard TD on a run by sophomore running back Brett Kirschner. ISU’s only score on the opening quarter was on a 20-yard field goal by junior kicker Brendon Garcia.
The second quarter was more of the same, as Montana out-scored ISU 21-7 in that stanza. The Griz rolled to a commanding 42-3 lead when they scored three unanswered touchdowns which included a 50-yard scoring run by senior halfback Peter Nguyen, an 80-yard fumble recovery return by junior linebacker Jordan Tripp, and a 4-yard pass from Smithwick-Hann to freshman halfback Joey Counts.
ISU’s only touchdown in the first half was a 12-yard pass from senior quarterback Kevin Yost to junior wide-out Luke Austin with 1:53 to go until halftime. The Bengals’s TD was set up when Smithwick-Hann was picked off at UM 15-yard line, and ISU scored three plays later on the Yost-to-Austin hook-up. Montana scored a season-high 42 first-half points, and led 42-10 at intermission.
The Grizzlies scored two unanswered TDs to start the third quarter, on a 5-yard scoring pass from Smithwick-Hann to Counts, and a 1-yard run by Kirschner. Kirschner’s scoring run gave Montana a 56-10 lead with 7:22 left in the third quarter.
UM’s final scores came on a 3-yard end-around run by junior wide receiver Cam Warren, and a 37-yard keeper by redshirt freshman quarterback Adam Brzeczek.
Nguyen had 11 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown, and it was his fourth 100-yard rushing effort of the season. Canada had 16 rushes for 83 yards and a score, and he was followed by Counts (6-for-58) and Kirschner (13 for 54).
Nguyen now has 1,770 career rushing yards, which moved him up to ninth all-time. He jumped from 12th to ninth, as he passed former running backs Dick Imer ( 1,692 yards, 1954-54), Jody Farmer (1,719 yards, 1986-89), and JR Waller (1,726 yards, 2002-05).
Smithwick-Hann was 14-of-21-2 for 205 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first career start. Counts, a true freshman from Mesa, Ariz., caught a team-high 4 passes for 36 yards and scored twice. Nine different Griz players had at least one reception and one rush in the game.
The Griz defense was led by end Tyrone Holmes, a true freshman from Eagle Point, Ore., who had 9 tackles and 4 sacks. Sophomore cornerback Joshua Dennard added 7 tackles, while Tripp had 6 tackles, 2.5 stops for losses, and forced the fumble that led to his 80-yard TD on the fumble return. Tripp’s fumble recovery was the seventh in his career, tying him with former safety Todd Ericson (7, 1990-93) for the third most in school history.
Yost was 36-of-56-1 for 323 yards and 3 TDs. ISU had two 100-yard receivers, as senior wide-out Rodrick Rumble had 12 catches for 102 yards and junior Cam Richmond grabbed 10 passes for 100 yards.
ISU freshman safety Taison Manu had a game-high 14 tackles, while sophomore linebacker Mitch Beckstead tallied 13.
The Grizzlies play at Weber State next Saturday, Nov. 3, while ISU hosts Northern Arizona that day.
— UM Sports Information