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No. 12 Montana rises in second half, beats Ferris State in physical battle

Montana-Ferris State football
Posted at 9:29 PM, Sep 16, 2023

MISSOULA — Division II Ferris State looked the part of a poised and confident national champion Saturday night. But Montana had the formula to remain undefeated.

Eli Gillman and Nick Ostmo each rushed for touchdowns in the second half, UM’s defense shut out Ferris State after halftime and No. 12 Montana survived for a 17-10 victory in a physical game at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

PHOTOS: NO. 12 MONTANA HOLDS OFF FERRIS STATE

It didn’t come easy, but the Griz closed the non-conference portion of their schedule 3-0. The loss snapped a 28-game road winning streak for Ferris State, the two-time reigning D-II national champion.

Montana’s defense registered four sacks and nine tackles for loss to keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard in the second half, which included two red-zone possessions. Cornerback Trevin Gradney had a momentum-shifting interception in the second half, his third pick in as many games.

Ostmo’s 3-yard touchdown at the far pylon with 1:39 left in the third quarter finally gave the Grizzlies the lead they’d been chasing, and UM’s defense made sure it held up. To hear everything from the Grizzlies at the post-game press conference, click here.

Turning point: Ferris State was leading 10-3 in the third quarter — and had all the momentum — but instead of running the ball on a third-and-3 play chose to take a shot down the field, which fell incomplete.

That led to a 33-yard punt return by Junior Bergen, a 26-yard pass from Sam Vidlak to Bergen and, eventually, a 1-yard touchdown run by Gillman that tied the game and gave the Griz the energy they needed.

Stat of the game: The teams combined for 22 penalties, but 15 of those went against Ferris State, including several false starts that hindered drives and two targeting calls that left two players disqualified.

Grizzly game balls: RB Eli Gillman (Offense). The Grizzlies ran just 56 plays had only 189 total offensive yards, but Gillman provided a spark in the second half with a physical running style. Gillman finished with 78 yards on 19 attempts and a touchdown.

LB Braxton Hill (Defense). Among a linebacker group that starred all night, Anaconda’s Hill had 15 total tackles (8 solo) and two quarterback sacks. He and fellow LBs Tyler Flink, Ryan Tirrell and Levi Janacaro kept blitz pressure on Ferris State quarterbacks Mylik Mitchell and Carson Gulker all night.

PR Junior Bergen (Special teams). Bergen had three punt returns for 51 yards, and his long return of 33 yards set up the Grizzlies’ first TD. Two of Bergen’s punt returns set up points — a 13-yarder to the Ferris State 30 helped set up Ostmo’s go-ahead touchdown.

What’s next: Montana (3-0) now gets set to open Big Sky Conference play with a game next week against Northern Arizona at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Ariz.

The Lumberjacks dropped to 0-3 with a 50-36 loss to Utah Tech on Saturday. Montana defeated Utah Tech on Sept. 9 on the road by a 43-13 score.