By ERIC TABER for GoGriz.com
Following the Montana Grizzlies second scrimmage of fall camp on Saturday morning, the general consensus coming from Washington-Grizzly Stadium was a recognized cleaner and crisper performance on both sides of the ball, providing a solid foundation to improve on.
The Griz ran roughly 82 plays over the course of 14 different drives, putting 15 points on the board (that easily could have been 29 points), and producing 318 yards of total offense against a UM defense that continues to impress.
“It was a better game today,” said head coach Bob Stitt. “I applauded the defense for no silly penalties. Offensively we had some big plays. Probably didn’t get all the points we wanted to, but we’re getting there.
We had a couple opportunities for big plays. We had an overthrow for a TD, a dropped pass for a TD, and a stalled drive. You add those in and you’re talking 5 touchdowns.”
Griz junior QB Brady Gustafson tallied about half of the snaps in an effort from Coach Stitt to provide his projected starter more reps at the helm, going 18-29 with one interception.
“Coach Selle and Coach Stitt said it best. We got a little bit better from last scrimmage to this scrimmage, and the goal is to get better on Thursday, and get better for the game on the 29th,” said Gustafson.
The Griz overcame the slow start the team suffered in its first scrimmage, with Gustafson putting together a scoring drive on the third series of the scrimmage.
Out of the gates on that drive, Gustafson, along with Josh Janssen and John Nguyen moved the chains twice before Jamaal Jones caught a pass in stride down the sideline for a 39-yard strike in the end zone.
Jones was another one of the offense’s highlights today, hauling in five passes for 82 yards to lead all receivers. Senior transfer Ben Roberts put his hand up for a starting spot as well, taking four impressive grabs for 39 yards.
Ellis Henderson scored the other touchdown of the day, hauling in a 35-yard pass from Makena Simis at full stride. Henderson only caught two balls, but totaled 43 yards of production.
Defensive Coordinator Ty Gregorak’s unit looked every bit the real deal, tallying seven sacks. Senior Tyrone Holmes had a hat trick, while Zach Peevey, Ryan Johnson, Nick Mertes and Zach Vis each added one sack a piece.
Junior corner back JR Nelson had a strong day in the secondary, picking off Gustafson for the only interception of the afternoon, and breaking up a Chad Chalich pass while blitzing from the corner.
“I’m looking forward to not playing against them,” said Coach Stitt of the Grizzly D. “We want to get to the season where we’re playing together and not against them, but we make each other better every single day. Offense is competing hard and making the defense work a little bit, and the defense is coming up with a lot of big plays.”
The Griz now enter the home stretch of fall camp with one last scrimmage on Thursday, Aug. 20 before the much-anticipated home opener on the 29th.
Gustafson can feel the synergy starting to happen with his team, and looking ahead to Thursday’s scrimmage, is looking forward to putting it into play on the field.
“Just trying to get in stride with everybody on the offense. Get 11 moving parts in unison, and I think if we can do that we’ll be pretty tough to beat.”
Thursday’s scrimmage is closed to the general public, but open to Quarterback Club Members.
Jamaal Jones 39 pass from Brady Gustafson (Daniel Sullivan kick failed)
Ellis Henderson 35 pass from Makena Simis (Chris Lider kick failed)
Daniel Sullivan – made: 43.
Brady Gustafson 18-29-1 – 201 ; Chad Chalich 8-12-0 – 41; Makena Simis 6-10-0 – 76; Eric Prater 0-2-0. Totals: 32-51-1 – 318.
John Nguyen 6-12, Treshawn Favors 4-12, Simis 7-11, Chalich 3-10, Carl Johnson 2-1, Jeremy Calhoun 2-1, Gustafson 5-(-3), Prater 1-(-8). Totals: 30-36.
Jamaal Jones 5-82, Josh Janssen 5-34, Ben Roberts 4-39, Justin Calhoun 3-4, Ellis Henderson 2-43, Keenan Curran 2-29, Ryan Burke 2-20, Reese Carlson 2-15, Josh Horner 2-13, Nguyen 2-10, Tyler Lucas 1-28, Caleb Lyons 1-2, Johnson 1-(1).
JR Nelson (of Gustafson).
Tyrone Holmes 3, Zach Peevey 1, Ryan Johnson 1, Nick Mertes 1, Zach Vis 1.