TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Montana closed the non-league portion of its schedule with a dominant 49-14 victory over Missouri Valley Football Conference foe Indiana State on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Quarterback Lucas Johnson threw touchdown passes to Cole Grossman, Keelan White and Ryan Simpson, and he also ran in a score of his own as UM’s offense operated efficiently if unspectacularly.
The Grizzlies’ blitzing defense put together another stout game, limiting the Sycamores to 14 first downs. Montana racked up four sacks, four QB hurries and scored a defensive touchdown in the first quarter on a Kale Edwards fumble return.
Indiana State scored on Justin Dinka’s 54-yard TD run in the first quarter and on a fumble return for a touchdown by Lucas Hunter in the fourth.
The win served as the Grizzlies’ first in the state of Indiana. UM closed its nonconference schedule with a perfect 3-0 record.
Turning point: With the game tied 7-7, Montana grabbed the lead with a little trickery. Johnson took a shotgun snap, faked a handoff and swung the ball to wideout Junior Bergen behind the line of scrimmage, who then lofted the ball to a wide-open Malik Flowers in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead at the 8:13 mark of the first quarter.
Stat of the game: Malik Flowers has long been a staple as a dangerous return man at Montana, and on Saturday he continued to establish himself as one of the school’s all-time best.
With a 28-yard return on the opening kickoff of the second half, Flowers set the Grizzlies’ all-time record for kick return yards. Flowers surpassed the career mark of 2,129 yards previously set by Rob Schulte (2005-08).
Grizzly game balls: QB Lucas Johnson (offense). Johnson completed 18 of 30 passes for 232 yards and finished with four total touchdowns, and spread the ball to nine different pass-catchers. Johnson, a transfer from San Diego State, has now accounted for 11 touchdowns this season with just one interception thrown.
LB Patrick O’Connell (defense). O’Connell continued his stellar play, and made a huge impact early. On Indiana State’s second possession, O’Connell came free on a blitz and forced the ball from QB Gavin Screws. Edwards recovered it and returned it for the first touchdown of the game. O’Connell finished with nine tackles, three tackles for loss, 2½ sacks and that forced fumble.
P Patrick Rohrbach (special teams). Rohrbach punted six times, placing four of those inside the 20-yard line and three inside the 10. Rohrbach continues to be a special teams weapon for coach Bobby Hauck, and has now put 11 of his 14 punts this season inside the 20.
What’s next: Everything starts for real next week with the beginning of the Big Sky Conference schedule, and Montana will welcome Portland State to Washington-Grizzly Stadium for homecoming next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. The Griz are 32-13 all-time against the Vikings, including an 18-4 mark at home.