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Turnovers doom Montana in playoff loss to Weber State

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Posted at 12:34 AM, Dec 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-14 10:04:24-05

OGDEN, Utah -- The Montana Grizzlies lost a heart-breaker to the Weber State Wildcats, 17-10, on a snowy Friday night at Stewart Stadium in the quarterfinal round of the FCS playoffs.

The Wildcats' offense was quiet, but their defense boisterous as they intercepted five passes and sacked Montana quarterback Dalton Sneed six times to halt Montana's explosive offense.

Sneed finished the game 30 for 48 for 257 yards, one touchdown and the five interceptions in his final game as a Grizzly.

"I'm proud of Dalton Sneed, he's a warrior and a great football player and he did not have a great night. It was tough on him and part of that was the guys on defense doing good against him," said Montana head coach Bobby Hauck.

The game started off as a defensive battle with both teams struggling on the offensive side of the ball early. After the first quarter ended 0-0, Montana only had 18 total yards while Weber State had 14.

"Our defense (Friday) was special, they were spectacular. I believe we have the best defense in the conference and they showed it," said Hauck.

Montana found some life in the second quarter after Sneed connected with last week's star Samori Toure for a 40-yard pass that put Montana on Weber State's 2-yard line. Two plays later, Sneed found tight end Colin Bingham for a 1-yard touchdown that put Montana up 7-0 with 7:13 left in the first half.

PHOTOS: WEBER STATE TOPS GRIZ IN QUARTERFINAL

The Griz went into halftime up 7-3 after Weber State's Trey Tuttle connected on a 41-yard field goal. Montana's defense held Weber State to just 38 total yards in the first half. However, Sneed threw his first two interceptions in the quarter as Eddie Heckard and Max Anderson grabbed takeaways for the Wildcats.

"It was OK early in drives, then we get late in the drives and the ball was slick so that probably cost him a couple of (interceptions), but then again the decision-making wasn't the best. He didn't play his sharpest, but more or less the defense doing a good job too," said Hauck.

The Wildcats finally found pay dirt on their first drive of the third quarter. Quarterback Jake Constantine hit Josh Davis on a screen pass, and Davis did the rest for an 11-yard score to make it 10-7 Wildcats with 9:46 left in the third. Davis, Weber State's standout running back, left the game earlier due to a right leg injury, but returned in time to put the Wildcats up for good.

Montana's offense only mustered 20 yards in the third quarter as Weber State's defense began to clamp down, and the Wildcats grabbed two more picks in that quarter. The first of those two set Weber State up deep in Montana territory, but the Grizzlies forced the Wildcats into a field goal attempt. A bad snap kept the game at 10-7.

Then, after Sneed's fourth interception of the game, the Wildcats once again lined up for a 28-yard field goal after a short drive, but Dante Olson blocked Tuttle's kick to keep Montana within three points.

But the back-breaker came in the fourth quarter as the Grizzlies lined up to punt. Ja'Kobe Harris broke though and blocked UM punter Adam Wilson and the ball rolled into the end zone and Harris fell on it for a touchdown. That gave the Wildcats a 17-7 lead with 9:41 to play.

"Obviously the blocked punt is a bad call by the special teams coach, which is me. I didn't get us in the right protection there and we gave up a touchdown there in our own end," Hauck said. "There's all kind of things. We're going 60 minutes of football and there's all kinds of things that could have gone differently, but that's a big play. That's a touchdown given up when the defense isn't giving them a dang yard hardly. Not very good."

Brandon Purdy brought Montana within a one-score game with a 27-yard field goal with 3:23 to play. Montana then forced Weber State into a three-and-out and used all of its timeouts, and the Grizzlies took over on their own 26 with 2:56 to play.

But after connecting with Jerry Louie-McGee on third down for 19 yards to get to the UM 48, Sneed was picked off by George Tarlas, his second interception of the game and Sneed's fifth, to seal the win for the Wildcats.

"Just didn't execute, just didn't make my reads," said Sneed. "That game falls on my shoulders and I let a lot of people down, let our team down, and it falls on my shoulder. I turned the ball over five times, it's hard to win the game."

Weber State mustered just 113 yards total on offense while Montana had 274. The Wildcats also only had eight first downs. Adam Rodriguez had four of Weber State's six sacks.

Toure caught eight passes for 85 yards in the game. Those marks give him Montana's single-season records in both categories with 87 catches and 1,495 yards on the season. Olson also finished his career with a bang. Along with his blocked field goal, the senior racked up 14 tackles to give him the Big Sky Conference single-season tackle record at 179, as well as Montana's record for career tackles with 397.

Mitch Roberts added six catches for 67 yards for Montana, while Louie-McGee also had six receptions for 53 yards in his final game for the Griz.

UM's season ends at 10-4 after returning to the postseason for the first time since 2015. Weber State (11-3) will travel to Harrisonburg, Va., next weekend to take on James Madison in the FCS semifinals.