T-Birds hand Griz another loss

MISSOULA — The Southern Utah Thunderbird handed The University of Montana Grizzlies another disappointing loss, in front of a home crowd of 25,684 Saturday afternoon in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, beating the Griz 30-20.

Southern Utah outscored Montana 17-3 in the second half to overcome a four-point (17-13) halftime deficit.  With the win the Thunderbirds improved to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in Big Sky Conference play while Montana dipped to 3-4 and 1-3 in league games.

Montana took an early lead when quarterback Trent McKinney hit junior tight end Clay Person for a 6-yard touchdown pass, and Chris Liders’ PAT gave the Griz a 7-0 lead.  SUU pulled within one point (7-6), after recovering a UM fumble on a punt return, as Sorensen hit Fatu Moala for a 7-yard scoring pass.  The T-Birds’ PAT failed, though, and Montana led a slim, 7-6 with 11 seconds left in the first quarter.

Lider gave the Grizzlies a 10-6 lead with a 43-yard field goal early (13:01) in the second period, But, the Thunderbirds took advantage of a short field when UM punter Stephen Shaw shanked a 15-yarder to set SUU up on the UM 43 yard line. SUU scored on the take-way, as Sorensen connected with wide receiver Henna Brown over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown, and that gave the T-Birds a 13-10 lead with 6:06 to play in the half.

Montana got the ball back and put together its longest drive of the game, an 11-play, 82-yard effort, that culminated with a 2-yard McKinney TD run by McKinney, and UM regained the lead (17-13) with 2:06 left until intermission, and held onto that slim advantage at the break.

With 5:55 to go in the third quarter, SUU put together a 12-play, 77-yard scoring drive, as Sorenson scored on a quarterback sneak to give his team a 20-17 lead.

Montana was scoreless in the third quarter, but with 7:58 to go in the game, Lider booted a 42-yard field goal to tie up the game at 20-20. The Griz did have a couple of scoring opportunities both late in the second quarter and early in the fourth, but were denied both times, as those earlier field kick attempts by Lider from  34 and 38 yard out were blocked by SUU.

On its third possession on the final quarter, SUU finally put together a scoring drive, and kicker Colton Cook nailed a 38-yard field goal to give the Thunderbirds the lead for good, 23-20 with 2:12 remaining in the game.  The big play for the visitors on their game-winning drive was set up when Southern Utah punter Brock Miller saw an open field in front on himself and instead of booting the ball away, he rushed for 22 yards on a 4th-and-2 from the UM 49-yard line, giving the T-Birds a crucial first down which led to the eventual game-winning three-pointer.  SUU running back Myles Crawford-Harris scored the game’s final points and put the game totally out of reach breaking free for a 34-yard touchdown run with 1:06 left to play.

Senior running back Peter Nguyen lead the Grizzlies with 15 carries for 91 yards. As a team, Montana rushed 42 times for 224 yards. Sophomore running back Jordan Canada had 11 rushes for 71 yards and he also caught 3 passes.  McKinney was 17-of-29-1 for 194 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 51  yards and TD.

Junior linebacker Brock Coyle led the Montana defense with 13 tackles, along with 2 forced fumbles and he had one of UM’s seven sacks.  Junior linebacker Jordan Tripp had 6 tackles and 3 tackles for losses, while sophomore end Zack Wagenmann had 1.5 sacks.  Sophomore cornerback Josh Dennard had 7 tackles and broke up five passes.

Sorenson was 30-of-53-0 passing for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns.   Junior wide receiver Fatu Moala had game-highs of 11 catches for 104 yards and a TD.  SUU rushed 29 times for 76 yards.

Next Saturday Montana is at North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D., while SUU hosts Weber State.

— UM Sports Information