MOSCOW, Idaho – For most of the day in the Kibbie Dome, Bobby Hauck’s Montana Grizzlies did exactly what the head football coach wanted. Then after the final whistle, they surprised him.
Montana doused Hauck with a celebratory water cooler, and his son Robby, a safety on the team, handed him the game ball, as the Grizzlies recognized the now all-time winningest coach in program history. The 46-27 win at Idaho gives Hauck 86 victories while leading the maroon and silver, one more than legendary coach Don Read.
“It brought a tear to my eye, of course,” Hauck admitted after the game. “I’ve got a hard-edge exterior, but I’m a softie. It means a lot when your team likes you enough to throw the Gatorade on you, and jump all over you, and give you a game ball. It’s pretty special.”
“Most excited about winning a rivalry game with Idaho,” continued Hauck. “I don’t know if the Grizzlies have ever won one going away like that here at the Kibbie Dome.”
Montana’s second straight dominant performance on the road didn’t get off to a fast start like last week in Southern Utah. But after a three-and-out on the opening drive and a field goal gave the Vandals a 3-0 lead, the Griz lit up the scoreboard and took control of the game.
UM scored touchdowns on five straight possessions to close out the first half with a 36-6 lead. Quarterback Dalton Sneed shredded the usual stout Vandals defense with big play after big play. He stepped up and found true freshman Gabe Sulser over the middle for a 59-yard score to put the Griz on the board. He unleashed a beautiful bomb to Samuel Akem for a 52-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Then hit the 6’4 wideout for another 40-yard gain on the next drive. Sneed capped off his outstanding first half with a 62-yard run on the final drive that set up another Griz touchdown.
“It was kind of in the game plan from the start,” Sneed said when asked about the deep passes. “We wanted to go over the top. We knew they were going to load the box with heavier set personnel. Just a great job by (offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach) scheming it up and dialing it up for us.”
“Dalton is a special player,” added Hauck. “He can run it and he can pass it. And those guys are hard to find. So when guys start making plays around him, he’s hard to stop.”
Sneed finished 12/20 passing for 220 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a game high 129 yards and another touchdown on 14 carries.
Almost all of that damage was done in the first half. The Griz offense gained 306 yards in the first two quarters. They took their foot off the gas in the second half, only gaining 114 more. Idaho actually totaled 37 more yards than UM in the contest. But the Vandals trailed by at least 19 points from early in the second quarter until the end.
Akem’s deep receptions led to another huge day for the sophomore. He hauled in six catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns, the fourth straight game he has caught two touchdown passes.
Dante Olson once again led the team with 10 tackles, giving the Grizzlies another milestone to celebrate. The junior linebacker has now collected 133 tackles, breaking the Montana single-season record of 130 with a game to spare.
“The school and the football program has some pretty awesome history,” said Olson. “So it means a lot to me. But it’s also one of those things that I can’t think about. We just got a big win as a team. I don’t keep track of tackles or anything like that. So hearing about that after the game is pretty cool. But I was excited about the win we got here today.”
“Dante is a play-maker. He’s a good player,” said Hauck. “He plays hard. He’s passionate about the game. There have been a lot of great football players on the defensive side of the ball at Montana. To be at the top of the heap in any statistical category at our university, particularly that one, shows he’s had a pretty darn good year.”
The loss drops Idaho to 4-6 with one more game at Florida left on the schedule. The Vandals return to the Big Sky Conference finishes with a 3-5 record in league.
The win improves Montana’s record to 6-4 and 4-3 in league, and keeps alive the Grizzlies very slim FCS playoff hopes. They’ll need one more win next Saturday, at home against rival Montana State.