(Editor’s note: University of Montana athletics release)
MISSOULA – The Montana Grizzlies put a cap on the spring season with another crisp offensive performance and an improved defensive outing as the Griz ran through 75 plays on a warm and sunny afternoon in Washington-Grizzly Stadium with over 6,000 fans in attendance.
The Grizzly offense totaled 42 points, and the defense got on the scoreboard with a pick-six (one of three interceptions on the day), to go along with four sacks and seven TFLs for an overall sound performance on both sides of the ball.
“I thought it was good. It was a great opportunity to get out in front of our people and play,” said head coach Bobby Hauck. “We have a really young football team, so the more our guys get to play at live college speed the better we’re going to be.”
Also highlighting the day was the announcement that junior defensive tackle Jesse Sims has been chosen to by Tucker Schye to be the next to wear the No. 37 jersey
Sims, from Stevensville, wore his former number in the first half (49), before emerging from the player tunnel at halftime in his new jersey, much to the applause of fans in attendance.
The offense was led by another even statistical count from Montana’s two potential starting QBs, and some flashes of brilliance from the freshman-in-waiting.
Dalton Sneed and Gresch Jensen split reps in the first half, passing for a combined total of 259 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Tanner Wilson featured as the QB of choice in the second half and made an impact with 103 yards and a touchdown of his own to give the offense 362 yards in the air.
Thirteen different Grizzlies caught at least one of 24 passes from the three QBs, with Samori Toure leading the way with four grabs for 94 yards and a score.
Toure was on the receiving end of the biggest play of the day, a 50-yard bomb from Jensen – hitting the sophomore in stride on a post route for one of three passing TDs for the offense, who looked to be in mid-season form after a slow start in the team’s first scrimmage this spring.
“In the first scrimmage it took a while to get us going, but today showed how work we put in as a team, we got a lot better,” said Toure. “It was an accumulation of all the work we put in over spring ball. I think it all came together for us today; it was a lot of fun.”
Senior Keenan Curran also had a big day, catching three passes for two touchdowns and 40 yards total.
Freshman Malik Flowers also turned heads after he connected with Wilson for another of the day’s biggest plays, a 49-yard strike along the left sideline that put the offense into the red zone, eventually leading to a Cody McCombs score.
The passing game was led by Sneed, who completed 13 of his 16 passes for 136 yards, with Jensen’s 123 yards on 5-9 passing close behind. As the man charged with catching passes from both, Toure says he’s impressed with both of their performances.
“They’re both doing amazing,” Toure added. “They’re making it a tough competition because they’re both making plays and us receivers are doing our jobs.”
Montana’s run game was equally effective, converting three touchdowns with a net 77 yards rushing on the day.
Senior Alijah Lee led the way 32 yards on four carries, while sophomore Rey Green saw the bulk of the work with 25 yards on 10 carries, scoring a pair of touchdowns. Overall, six different running backs carried the ball three times or more, spread out over 40 carries.
“The O-line is blocking great, and we’re really starting to play together as a team, and build that chemistry which is important to the whole offense,” said freshman back Adam Eastwood, who tallied three carries for 14 yards.
Defensively the Griz were once again led in tackling by freshman linebacker Marcus Welnel from Helena who posted seven tackles for the second straight scrimmage. Senior linebacker Shane Cochran also put in seven tackles to lead the D.
Former wide receiver-turned-cornerback put the defense in the scoring column with a 15-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Freshman safety Michael McGinnis from Sidney also got in on the action with an interception, showing his speed with a 32-yard return before being forced out of bounds by Jensen in a last-ditch effort.
Sophomore cornerback Gavin Crow also came up with an interception to give the defense three total picks on the day.
On special teams, punter Eric Williams turned some heads, averaging 48-yards per punt on five different kicks with a long of 51. Kicker Tim Semenza went six-for-seven on PATs, with one getting blocked by Nick Fouch.