The Montana Grizzlies defense produced yet another strong showing in the team’s second scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday morning inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium, in front of over 1,000 fans who turned up to check out the 2016 squad.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Holden Ryan had an interception, and Oregon State transfer Justin Strong made his first impact as a Grizzly with another INT as the defense forced three turnovers, picked up five sacks and broke up six passes on the day.
While the defense kept a tight rein on the offense for much of the morning, the Brady Gustafson –led Griz put up 23 points from three touchdown passes and a 33-yard field goal from Brandon Purdy over the course of the 94-play scrimmage.
Gustafson threw a pair of touchdown passes, one to Nebraska transfer Lane Hovey and one Jerry Louie-McGee. Chad Chalich opened the scoring with a four-yard pass to true freshman Samori Toure, showing the ability to move the ball against a defense that looked in game-ready condition.
Though no rushing touchdowns were scored, the Griz picked up 199-yards on the ground, almost half of the 410-yards of total offense Montana produced. Senior John Nguyen led the rushing attack with 55-yards, while UM showed its versatility on the ground with 49-yards from Joey Counts, 39-yards from Treshawn Favors and 31-yards from Jeremy Calhoun.
“I loved what the defense was doing, causing a lot of problems,” said head coach Bob Stitt. “Offensively we hurt ourselves with some penalties up front. We have to clean those up. It’s hard to get a first down anyway, and when you start first and 20, or first and 15 it’s difficult. So we have to clean that up.
“But we’re excited about the run game. We got that going a little bit. We’d like to finish some drives and get some points on the board, but it’s a very good defense that the offense is facing right now.”
The defensive line again proved they will give opposing offenses all they can handle this year, picking up two sacks from D-end Jesse Sims, one sack from senior Zach Peevey and a fumble recovery from true freshman Randy Rodriguez.
“We just want to get out there and played fast and physical with no mental errors,” said Peevey. “Just trying to make as many plays as possible. It was a good day.”
The D-line was able to achieve success despite a solid performance from one of Montana’s most improved units, the offensive line.
“That O-line is big, man. They’re big guys,” added Peevey. “Brady’s throwing the ball really well, getting it off very quick, so it’s hard to get to the quarterback. But iron sharpens iron, and that’s what we’re doing out there.”
Gustafson was 15-24 in the air, accounting for 139 of Montana’s 255 passing yards, and a pair of touchdowns. Reese Phillips and Chad Chalich continued to battle it out for the backup QB position. Chalich put his hand up for the position with a solid outing of 7-7 passing for 51-yards and a touchdown, while Phillips put up 65-yards passing, but threw a pair of interceptions.
The Grizzly quarterbacks spread the love amongst the corps of receivers, with sophomore walk-on Mitch McLaughlin leading the way with three catches for 57 yards. Jerry Louie-McGee was close behind with 53 yards from five catches and a score, while Hovey caught three passes for 41-yards.
In the young but capable special teams unit, Eric Williams punted seven times, averaging 42.6 yards per-kick, including a long of 50. Tim Semenza went 0-1 on field goals, but was 2-2 on PATs, while Purdy missed a PAT, but nailed his one attempt at a 33-yard field goal.
The Grizzlies will get some much-deserved rest following the scrimmage, taking a team outing to Splash Montana on Saturday afternoon, and enjoying a rare day off during fall camp on Sunday.
The team will get three more practices this week before its final scrimmage of the season on Thursday. All focus will then move toward preparing for Saint Francis in the home-opener on Sept. 3.
“We have to be game ready on Thursday,” said Stitt. “From this film we’ll have a good idea of who can handle it and who can’t.”
“I’m just happy, as a whole, the way our team comes out and competes, and just enjoys the game. Every time we get out here our guys are having a blast.”
The Grizzly Scholarship Association was also on hand Saturday, selling official Maroon Out t-shirts at the scrimmage, getting fans geared up for the Maroon Out homecoming game on Oct. 3, against Southern Utah.
Maroon Out shirts are $10 and can be purchased at the annual Great Griz Encounter next Thursday at Caras Park in downtown Missoula, which starts at 6:30 p.m.
Courtesy: Montana Sports Information