Grizzlies maul Bobcats, 34-7, in Missoula

MISSOULA — The defense took advantage of seven turnovers and Jordan Canada and Jordan Johnson paced the offense, as the 13-ranked University of Montana Grizzlies defeated the 12th-ranked Montana State Bobcats 34-7 in a must-win Big Sky Conference game for UM Saturday afternoon.

A Washington-Grizzly Stadium record crowd of 26,352 attended the 114th “Brawl of the Wild,” and it was the first time the home team has won in the last six years of the storied rivalry.  The Griz now lead the series 72-37-5, and have won 24 of the last 29 contests.

Montana improved to 6-2 in league and 8-4 overall, while MSU is also now 6-2/8-4.  The victory should have earned the Griz a berth in the upcoming FCS playoffs as well.  The teams who receive at-large berth in the FCS playoffs will be announced Sunday, Nov. 23, at 9 a.m. on ESPNU.

It was perhaps an even more emotional “Senior Day” for Montana’s 16 seniors, as earlier this week Griz head coach Mick Delaney announced that he would be retiring at the conclusion of the 2014 season.  Delaney is in his third year as the Grizzlies’ head man, and started at UM in 2008 as the team’s associate head coach and running backs coach.

It was a record day for UM defensive end Zack Wagenmann.  The senior from Missoula had a sack in the game, giving him 33.5 in his career to break the school record, passing Tim Bush, who had 32.5 sacks from 2000-03.  Bush is still ranked first at UM in tackles for loss with 48.5, but Wagenmann is right behind him with 48 TFLs.

Canada, a senior halfback from Duarte, California,  picked up 119 yards on the ground to which give him 1,011 on the season  — the year in a row he has rushed for 1,000-plus yards (he rushed for 1,062 last year).

A senior from Eugene, Ore., Johnson passed for 313 yards, which gives him 8,236 in his career – the third most in school history, while his 27 career wins are the fourth most W’s most by a  starting quarterback.

Senior free safety Matt Hermanson, from Sioux Falls, S.D., now has 338 career stops and moved up to fourth in school history, as he passed linebacker Jordan Tripp, who had 335 career tackles from 2009-13.  Hermanson also had 3 picks in the game, and now has 11 career picks, which ties him for the sixth most at UM with four other players.

The Griz scored on five of their first six possessions and took a commanding 27-0 halftime lead.

A Johnson 4-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Mitch Saylor gave UM a 27-0 advantage with 3:05 left until intermission.  On its fourth and final possession of the opening half, Montana scored three touchdowns and a field goal, and picked off Bobcat starting quarterback Jake Bleskin four times.  All four of those interceptions resulted in Grizzly scores.

Junior kicker Daniel Sullivan’s 42-yard field goal gave Montana an early 3-0 lead with 12:04 to go in the first quarter.  Canada boosted UM’s lead to 17-0 on back-to-back scores, the first on a 1-yard run, and the second came on a 4-yard TD pass from Johnson to Canada with 50 seconds left in the first stanza.  It was Canada’s first career receiving touchdown.

The Grizzlies then tacked on 10 more points in the opening half on a 29-yard field goal by Sullivan, and the Johnson-to-Saylor TD hook-up.  The Grizzlies’ only second half point came when Johnson connected with redshirt wide receiver Josh Janssen on a 9-yard scoring pass, which gave UM a 34-0 cushion with 12:53 left in the fourth quarter.

MSU finally got on the board with 5:59 left in the game on a 1-yard run by sophomore running back Chad Newell, as the Cats put together a 15-play, 70-yard drive on their final possession.

Johnson was 22-of-36-0 for 313 yards and rushed 6 times for 80 yards.  Canada had 27 totes for his 119 yards.  Senior wide receiver/halfback Travon Van had game-highs of 7 catches for 109 yards, while senior tight end Mitch Saylor had career-highs of 6 catches for 103 yards and a TD.  Junior Jamaal Jones added 5 grabs for 67 yards, while Janssen had 3 receptions.

Junior linebackers Kendrick Van Ackeren and Herbert Gamboa led the Griz with 11 tackles each, while Hermanson added 8 stops to go along with his 3 picks.  Van Ackeren has a team-best 110 tackles so far this season.

Bleskin, who was starting in place of the injured Dakota Prukop, was 15-of-28-5 for 145 yards, and was sacked three times.  Newell led MSU with 17 carries for 67 yards and a TD.  Senior linebacker Alex Singleton led the Cats with a game-high 16 tackles.

— Montana Sports Information