FARGO, N.D. — On the wrong end of several big plays Saturday, Montana saw its season came to an end in the second round of the FCS playoffs with a 49-26 loss to defending national champion North Dakota State at the Fargodome.
The Grizzlies had stolen some momentum in the second quarter, but with 58 seconds left before halftime, Griz QB Lucas Johnson was sacked by NDSU’s Kody Huisman and the ball came loose, rolling into the end zone where it was recovered by Cole Wisniewski for a touchdown and a 21-10 Bison lead.
Johnson appeared to aggravate his knee injury on the play and was replaced by backup Daniel Britt.
In the third quarter, UM’s Corbin Walker returned an interception 58 yards for a TD to pull the Griz within 21-20 on the scoreboard. NDSU answered, though, with two long touchdown runs to reclaim a lead that grew too big for Montana to overcome.
The Bison improved its home playoff record to 32-1 since 2010 and won for the 39th consecutive time coming off a bye.
Turning point: After Walker returned his interception for a touchdown to bring Montana within one on the scoreboard, NDSU immediately answered when Kobe Johnson ran 75 yards for a touchdown on its next offensive play.
Then, after Britt threw an interception, TaMerik Williams broke free and rumbled 68 yards for another score and a 35-20 Bison advantage.
Stat of the game: NDSU’s Johnson led the way for what was a physical and dominant running game, piling up 206 yards. He had touchdown runs of 75 and 73 yards. The Bison finished with 453 yards on the ground, averaging 10.8 per carry.
Grizzly game balls: RB Isiah Childs (offense). With Nick Ostmo sidelined due to injury, Childs anchored Montana’s running back output with 99 yards on 17 attempts.
CB Corbin Walker (defense). Walker made Montana’s biggest play on defense when he returned an interception 58 yards for a score. It was Walkers second career playoff pick-six.
KR/PR Junior Bergen (special teams). NDSU did all it could to keep kicks away from explosive Montana return man Malik Flowers. Instead, Junior Bergen got most of the opportunities, and had 83 combined return yards.
What’s next: The Grizzlies finished their season with an 8-5 record, which included a comeback victory in the first round of the playoffs last week against Southeast Missouri. But they couldn’t solve the Bison.
Third-seeded NDSU (10-2) advanced to face No. 6 Samford (11-1) next week in a quarterfinal game at the Fargodome. The Bison are chasing their 10th FCS title in the past 12 seasons.