MISSOULA — Two of the premier teams in FCS football squared off Saturday evening, and the University of Montana Grizzlies came away with an impressive 30-6 victory over the Appalachian State Mountaineers in front of a record crowd of 26,293 in UM’s Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
It was an impressive debut for the 20th-ranked Grizzlies, who racked up almost 500 yards of offense against a Mountaineers team (which had 328 total yards) that was 8-4 last season and returned 18 starters. ASU is making the move to the FBS next season, and because of that is not eligible for the FCS playoffs in 2013.
It was the first regular-season game under the lights for the Grizzlies, who jumped out to a 16-3 after an impressive first half in which they out-gained the 12th-ranked Mountaineers 272 total yards to 138, and had controlled the ball almost twice as much (19:05 to 10:55) time.
Montana took a 16-0 lead when junior quarterback Jordan Johnson connected with sophomore wide receiver Ellis Henderson on a 6-yard scoring pass, followed by junior running back Travon Van’s 2-yard scoring run, and then a 25-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Chris Lider.
ASU finally got on the board when it marched 54 yards on five plays in the closing minute of the second quarter, as senior place-kicker Drew Stewart nailed a 48-yard field as time expired at halftime.
Stewart cut the Griz advantage to 16-6 with a 21-yard field goal with 9:54 to go in the third quarter – which proved to be the only points scored by either squad in that stanza.
Montana, which is now 3-0 at home (and 3-1 overall) against ASU, tacked on two more touchdowns, the first on a 1-yard run by halfback Jordan Canada, and the second an 11-yard pass from Johnson to freshman tight end Jordan Harper. Harper’s TD, which were the final points scored in the game, came with 9:23 left to play.
Van’s first game at Montana was a stellar one, as the transfer from Marshall rushed 20 times for 118 yards and a score, while Canada was just as outstanding, picking up 112 yards and a TD on 25 totes. Montana rushed 52 times for 246 yards and two scores.
Junior quarterback Jordan Johnson was a very competent 19-of-23-0 (82.6%) passing for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore wide receiver Jamaal Jones, a transfer from Washington, had a team-high 6 catches for 60 yards, while Henderson had 3 grabs for 72 yards and a TD.
UM’s defense which held ASU to no touchdowns, was led by its three senior linebackers, J.P. Kanongata’a (9 total tackles), Jordan Tripp (7 TT), and Brock Coyle (7 TT). Senior safety Bo Tully had two key plays for the D – recovering a fumble and grabbing an interception, and he also had 6 tackles.
ASU’s quarterback combination of senior Jamal Londry-Jackson and sophomore Kameron Bryant were 21-of-33-1 for 205 yards. The Mountaineers gained 123 rushing yards on 26 carries. Freshman linebacker John Law and sophomore linebacker Kevin Walton had a game-high 12 tackles each.
The Griz have a bye this week and play their next game at North Dakota on Sept. 14. The Mountaineers, which had not lost a season opener to FCS opponent since losing 22-10 at North Carolina A&T in 1993, host N. C. A&T next Saturday.
— Montana Sports Information