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No. 13 Montana makes quick work of Utah Tech in first road trip

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Posted at 10:30 PM, Sep 09, 2023

ST. GEORGE, Utah — The No. 13 Montana Grizzlies made quick work of the Utah Tech Trailblazers on Saturday evening as UM won 43-13 at Greater Zion Stadium.

Montana set the tone on the third play of the game as Boone Abbott's pass was intercepted by Trevin Gradney who picked it off with one hand to get the Grizzlies the ball right away on Utah Tech's 43-yard line. The Grizzlies then used seven plays to punch in the game's first score on a 4-yard touchdown run by Nick Ostmo.

Griz postgame: Bobby Hauck, Nick Ostmo, Trevin Gradney talk win over Utah Tech

UM got a touchdown from Eli Gillman to make it 14-0 in the first quarter as the floodgates opened, and the onslaught continued with Ostmo scoring on a 46-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Later, the Grizzlies made it 29-0 after Junior Bergen took a punt back 47 yards for a score, and one more touchdown from Gillman before half sent the Griz into the break with a 36-0 lead.

Clifton McDowell drew the start at quarterback for Montana and he finished the game completing 7 of 10 attempts for 94 yards. He also ran the ball for 26 yards. Sam Vidlak, last week's starter, did not enter the game until the second drive of the third quarter, and Vidlak finished the game 6 for 9 on passing attempts for 41 yards and one touchdown, as he found tight end Evan Shafer for a score to make it 43-0 in the third quarter as Montana closed it out.

Utah Tech scored twice in garbage time after UM had pulled its starters.

The Grizzlies finished with 262 rushing yards in the game and held Utah Tech to 103 yards on the ground. UM also held Utah Tech to 5 for 18 on third down.

Levi Janacaro led UM with six total tackles while Riley Wilson and Matai Mata'afa each had sacks for the Grizzlies.

With the win, Montana improved to 2-0 on the season while Utah Tech fell to 0-2 after losing to both Montana and Montana State to start the season.

Turning point: Gradney's interception on the third play of the game set the Grizzlies up in Utah Tech territory, and Montana wasted no time in getting on the board first, and never looked back.

Stat of the game: The Grizzlies forced four turnovers in the game, with interceptions from Gradney, Nash Fouch and TraJon Cotton. Gradney also forced a fumble that was recovered by Ryan Tirrell. All three of UM's interceptions led to touchdowns on the ensuing offensive drive as Montana cashed in the takeaways to run away in the game.

Griz game balls: RB Nick Ostmo, RB Eli Gillman and the offensive line (offense). Banged up coming out of fall camp, Ostmo did not register a carry against Butler last week in the opener. But on Saturday against Utah Tech, Ostmo carried the ball 12 times for 118 yards and two scores, while Gillman — the redshirt freshman who starred a week ago — finished with 16 carries for 78 yards and two more touchdowns. UM's offensive line blocked for 262 rushing yards and 135 passing yards in the game.

CB Trevin Gradney (defense). Gradney has been off to a hot start in 2023. The Billings West product had his first career interception a week ago against Butler in his first start on defense, and followed that up with a pick and forced fumble against the Trailblazers on Saturday.

PR Junior Bergen (special teams). Bergen's touchdown to make it 29-0 Montana came with 5:08 left in the second quarter as the Grizzlies began to run away. For Bergen, a Billings Senior product, it was his third punt return touchdown in his Grizzly career.

What’s next: The Grizzlies wrap up non-conference play next Saturday in Missoula against the two-time defending NCAA Division II champs in Ferris State. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.