GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Following Montana’s 41-14 loss to North Dakota, head coach Bobby Hauck had a blunt assessment of his football team.
“We’re a really average football team,” he said. “And if we don’t go out and play at an optimum level, and we don’t take care of the football, we can’t win.”
Indeed, turnovers doomed the Grizzlies on Saturday, putting them in a hole early and keeping them from coming back late.
Dalton Sneed threw an interception to Deion Harris on the third play of the game, which led to a 10-yard touchdown from Nate Ketteringham to Noah Wanzek to put Montana in a hole. Gavin Crow fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, which led to another North Dakota touchdown to make it 14-0.
Montana found a spark on its next drive when true freshman Gabe Sulser took a jet sweep handoff 59 yards to the North Dakota 10-yard line. But two plays later, Colin Bingham fumbled on a fullback dive on the 2-yard line for Montana’s third turnover in the first five minutes.
North Dakota scored on the ensuing drive when Ketteringham found true freshman Garett Maag behind the defense 45 yards down the sideline to make it 21-0, taking all the wind out of Montana’s sails barely halfway into the first quarter.
“They capitalize when they make those plays, and we made a big play and couldn’t capitalize,” Hauck said. “That’s what good teams do. They were the good team (Saturday).”
North Dakota scored twice in the second quarter to make it 34-0 at halftime, with the Montana offense sputtering. After a scoreless third quarter, the Fighting Hawks made it 41-0 on a James Johanneson 6-yard score.
Hauck inserted Cam Humphrey at quarterback in the fourth quarter in place of the struggling and hobbling Sneed, and the redshirt sophomore led the Griz on two scoring drives. Humprhey found Samuel Akem for a 68-yard touchdown down the sideline and then a 24-yard score over the middle with 2:23 to play to make the final 41-14.
Humphrey finished 5-of-8 with 143 yards passing, while Sneed’s day ended with a line of 25-of-38 attempts for 200 yards and one interception.
Montana managed only 70 yards rushing on 17 carries, while North Dakota dominated the ground game with 53 carries for 282 yards, led by Johannesson with 110 yards and a score.
The Griz have now lost back-to-back games for the first time ever in Hauck’s time at Montana and fall to 4-3 overall with a 2-2 mark in the Big Sky Conference. Hopes of a league title are slipping away and a spot in the FCS playoffs is in jeopardy. Montana has an open week before a home game against No. 14 UC Davis on Saturday, Oct. 27.
“We have a chance to get some guys healthy,” Hauck said. “We have a chance to get back to work and we have a chance to go recruit, which is something we need to do, as well.”