MISSOULA — Defense ruled the day for Montana again on Saturday, paving the way to a 24-7 victory over South Dakota at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
The Grizzlies limited USD’s offense to 209 total yards and forced 10 punts to stretch their record to 2-0 to start the season. The Coyotes were just 3 for 15 on third-down plays and were the victims of eight tackles for loss by the Griz.
Though UM surrendered its first points of the season in the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies’ defense did score points of its own when linebacker Braxton Hill sacked South Dakota quarterback Carson Camp in the end zone for a safety late in the game.
Montana sacked Camp five times and limited him to 12 completions and 119 yards through the air.
Turning point: Montana led 13-0 at halftime, then 16-0 following a 28-yard Nico Ramos field goal early in the third quarter. But when Junior Bergen caught a 12-yard touchdown throw from Lucas Johnson with 4:37 left in the third the Grizzlies had a three-possession advantage and a 22-0 lead.
The proved pivotal, as South Dakota scored its first points on a 25-yard run by Travis Theis’ in the fourth. Montana, though, still had a two-score cushion.
Stat of the game: The shutout streak for Montana’s defense to begin the season ended at 113 minutes, 33 seconds. The Grizzlies surrendered their first points of the year on Theis’ touchdown run on a short field after a turnover. But that was all the Coyotes could muster.
Game balls: QB Lucas Johnson (offense). Johnson put together another strong performance, indicating again that the Grizzlies have found their man at quarterback. Johnson completed 22 of 28 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed for 75 yards and a pair of scores.
LB Patrick O’Connell (defense). O’Connell led Montana’s menacing defense with 11 total tackles 1½ sacks, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.
P Patrick Rohrbach (special teams). The true freshman out of Kalispell Glacier continued his stellar start by averaging 42.2 yards on six punts, booming two 50 yarders and placing four inside the 20. That helped. UM control field position for most of the day.
What’s next: The Grizzlies (2-0) will play their first road game of the season next Saturday at non-league FCS opponent Indiana State. The game will kick off at 11 a.m. Mountain time from Memorial Stadium in Terre Haute, Indiana, and can be streamed on ESPN+.
It will be Montana’s second consecutive game against a Missouri Valley Football Conference opponent before opening Big Sky play on Sept. 24.