A Win is a Win is a Win Baby….

By Mick Holien

A win is a win, is a win, is a win baby and I’ll take it.

It wasn’t by any means pretty and Saturday’s Homecoming victory over Sacramento State might prove costly but the Grizzlies balanced their league and Big Sky Conference record by the slimmest of margins.

What might be most interesting about the 28-25 home victory is that the last three games – two of them losses – have come down basically to the last play and this time the Grizzlies were up to the challenge. As they did all day, they held defensively in front of a Washington Grizzly Stadium record crowd of just short of 26,000.

In prevailing by a field goal, the Grizzlies won an 18 straight Homecoming game and also claimed a 19th straight home conference win to bounce Sacramento State out of the early-season league lead and defeat the Hornets for the 16th straight time.

But Montana again had a punt blocked – with the penetration deep in their own territory coming seemingly from the same spot that resulted in an Eastern Washington TD the previous week – lost three more fumbles and suffered an interception when quarterback Justin Roper and tight end Greg Hardy weren’t on the same page.

But make no mistake about this: Defensive coordinator Mike Breske’s defense is coming together.

After the Intermission, the Griz D held Sac State to 24 yards on the ground and 46 via the airways and just a pair of first downs.

The problem is – and this should not be startling – the way the offense is turning the ball over or fails to make even a first down.  At times it seems the defense doesn’t even get to the sideline bench before they are summoned back onto the field.

Roper performed admirably for the injured Andrew Selle and continued to be one of the most efficient passers in FBS football.

He misfired just three of 19 pass attempts – one of which was picked off – and connected on a 54-yard gem to Antwon Moutra for a score.  He connected on another to sophomore Bryce Carver for the winning tally, a superb 29 yarder out of the sun in the right corner of the north end zone.

Moutra, the UCLA transfer has the best hands of any receiver in some time and of course Carver, from Beaverhead County High School in Dillon, is surfacing as a real “gamer” making clutch catches. He already has three TD receptions.

But my personal play of the game was made by the Canadian Brodie McKnight.

Called upon to replace Sean Wren as the team’s punter, he didn’t boom the ball or kick for long distance and the blocked punt wasn’t his fault, but his bounding up the ladder to corral a high snap and get off a punt in the late stages flat saved the Griz bacon.

Regular punt snapper Jordan Tripp was banged up and sophomore Greg Hardy was called to snap for the first time in a collegiate game.

The snap was to the right and seemingly far above McKnight’s reach but somehow he athletically tipped the ball to himself with his fingertips and on fourth and 10 at the Montana 29-yard-line rotated just a taste right and got off a 30 yard-punt to the Sac 41 where the D forced Sac to three and out.

In a three-point game with about seven minutes to go if that ball sails over his head to deep in Montana territory, even if McKnight recovers, Sacramento State is knocking on the door and the outcome might well have been different.

McKnight joins the up-and-coming Montana D, which held Sac to eight yards on its last three possessions, as “game ball” recipients.

I said it before and I’ll say it again, a win is a win is a win—especially at homecoming!