FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — It was a disappointing result for the Montana Grizzlies on Saturday afternoon in Flagstaff, as the Griz fell to the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks 28-14. The Lumberjacks out-played Montana in all three phases of the game throughout the entire contest.
Afterwards, it was a somber mood around the Griz program as they begin Big Sky play 0-1 and fall to 3-1 overall.
"We had our chances and we didn't capitalize, we didn't execute," UM head coach Bobby Hauck said. "It's a shame not to come down here and win and we didn't.
"There were times where they won, there were times when we didn't win and get the ball out, so everything goes hand and hand in football. It's 11 guys got to do it right and their 11 did it better than our 11 (Saturday)."
Despite forcing a turnover on NAU's opening drive, the Grizzlies were dealt a reality check almost instantly when they had a punt blocked that immediately turned into a touchdown on the Lumberjacks' next drive.
In the second quarter, NAU made it 14-0, and rarely did momentum find its way to the Griz sideline.
"They definitely had momentum pretty much the whole game it felt like," UM senior linebacker Braxton Hill said. "I don't know how many times they were on our side of the field but it felt like a lot. But they definitely had a lot of momentum the entire game."
Defensively, UM had its moments with a pair of turnovers, while keeping their team in the game aside from NAU's two home run touchdown plays. The Lumberjacks found multiple holes in the Grizzlies' pass coverage throughout the game to extend drives or set themselves up well, and NAU also found success on the ground with 136 yards rushing.
Offensively, it was a struggle, as the Grizzlies finished with just 18 yards on the ground, and NAU racked up seven sacks and held the Griz scoreless in the second half.
Montana mustered just 12 first downs and went 2 for 12 on third down.
All of that was a recipe that spelled out ineptitude on offense all game.
"We had a good week of preparation, we had good focus by our guys and I was disappointed by one, their performance considering we had a good week of prep, and I was very disappointed that we had mistakes and busts on things that are first day fundamental things, things that we did the first day of spring practice," Hauck explained. "I'm sure they did it all summer on their own and didn't bust it once and we had quite a bit of that (Saturday) in that game.
"There wasn't a bunch of adjustment needed to be made. There's a lot of opportunity there and we're not capitalizing so we've got to capitalize. They didn't do anything on defense that particularly surprised us. We've got to get first downs and go down the field and score and we didn't do that."
Even through the challenges, UM had momentum after making it 21-14 going into half and starting the third quarter with a strong drive, but again it was NAU coming up with the big swing play with an interception that the Lumberjacks turned into points.
"Just have to go back and look at ourselves in the mirror," Hill said. "There wasn't one guy that lost the game, it was a team effort, so we've got to take the coaching, understand where we've got to play better and we just have to have a really good week and we've got to come next Saturday ready to play."
The rest of the way, Montana looked lost as the Lumberjacks (1-3, 1-0 Big Sky) closed out the win to get their first victory of the season while shocking the 13th-ranked Griz, who now are tasked with soul-searching with their toughest games still to come in Big Sky play. UM will next welcome Idaho State (1-3, 1-0) to Missoula next Saturday.
"If you're not disappointed then you don't care enough," Hauck said. "Everybody in here is disappointed. We got to play better, that's what it is. Every guy in the room starting with me has got to look in the mirror and say how do I do better this week and we've got to come back with a vengeance on Monday and get ready to go."