MISSOULA — Dalton Sneed threw one touchdown and rushed for another, as No. 25 Montana survived a near-collapse against No. 12 Northern Iowa, 26-23, in Bobby Hauck’s return to Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Saturday. The Grizzly defense held the Panthers to just 62 yards of offense in the first half, five first downs and a dismal 1.7 yards per play.
But Saturday night was a tale of two halves, as the Panthers outscored the Grizzlies 23-0 in the second half. UNI turned to backup quarterback Colton Howell in the third quarter, and he threw for 140 yards and a touchdown, nearly leading the comeback.
Dante Olson had 13 total tackles, with a tackle-for-loss and an interception in the win.
TURNING POINT: With Northern Iowa holding the momentum and looking for a key stop on 3rd-and-2 with under two minutes to play, Sneed found Samori Toure on a pattern across the middle to earn a third-down conversion that would seal the win for Montana.
STAT OF THE GAME: One-hundred ninety-six. Sneed’s quarterback rating in the season-opening game was impressive, 128.5, completing 26 of 39 passes, including 18 in the first half for 196 yards, while the Grizzlies totaled 273 yards of offense. Sneed finished the game with 248 yards passing and 58 rushing yards.
GAME BALLS: Sneed and Olson. After transferring from UNLV to Fort Scott Community College (Kansas) to Montana, Sneed looked right at home in maroon and silver in the opening half. The lack of offense in the second half is a concern, but he showed his composure on the pivotal third-down play late in the game. Sneed’s ability to find open receivers, as well as scramble for positive yardage, gives the Grizzlies a capable weapon under center. Olson was all over the field for the UM defense, with his fourth-quarter sack of Howell stalling a Northern Iowa drive. He was also credited with a quarterback hurry and pass breakup to lead the Grizzly defense.
WHAT’S NEXT: UM stays in Washington-Grizzly Stadium for the Maroon & Silver game against Drake. The Bulldogs were 7-4 last season and finished runner-up in the Pioneer League standings, though their game Saturday against William Jewell was canceled due to severe weather.