Grizzlies Lose to Sac State 42-28

By MICK HOLIEN

It was just one of those days or in this case, one of those games.  The winning streak over Sacramento is a thing of the past and the Grizzlies, left to their own devices, are back in the midst of the pack in the Big Sky Conference race.

For me, from my shivering rooftop perch amid a 20 mph wind, the entire evening was epitomized by the opening drive when the Hornets took 7:20 to move seemingly at will down the field. And while Montana tied the game a couple of times at seven and 14, it seemed the die was cast.

There surely will be plenty of opportunity for fans to finger point because it certainly was not Montana’s finest hour. Even though they put but 17 points on the board, the Griz never seemed in sync and were unable to mount a sustained drive or capture momentum when it counted.

Now there’s little doubt this Hornet team more mirrored the one that hung defeat on Oregon State in Corvallis in the opening overtime victory and not the one that was surprisingly throttled at Ogden against Weber State last weekend.

And give Sacramento State the credit because the 42-28 score doesn’t do justice to their domination in several categories– especially time of possession where the Griz defense spent two-thirds of the game on the field.

Add a key blocked punt when Sean Wren took a lengthy time to boot the football in his own territory; a muffed punt that hit freshman Josh Dennard and was recovered by Sac to give them the ball in the red zone and led to a 14-7 lead; three Jordie Johnson interceptions; and an efficient outing by Sac quarterback Jeff Fleming parlayed with a potent three-headed rushing attack, and the Grizzlies fall to 1-1 in league.

Fleming passed for two scores and ran for two others, passing for 224 yards on 18 completions and running for an additional 59.  Mean while Bryan Hilliard again eclipsed the century mark in rushing for the second straight year against Montana and Sam McCowan ran for 66 yards in relief.

It might be Sacramento State’s biggest home win.  It was thoroughly enjoyed by almost 13,000 boisterous fans, and was by far the largest crowd that I can remember at Hornet Stadium.

If they had lost, the Hornets (picked fourth in the pre-season poll), faced a daunting task to contend in the title race down two games and headed to Bozeman next Saturday.

As it is if they were to be successful against Montana State, they’d be right in the middle of the league chase.

There were few superlatives with the possible exception of running back Dan Moore, who scored a pair of tough TDs and now has five scores in the last three games, and even led receivers with a quartet of grabs for 66 yards.

But make no mistake; it’s a bitter pill to swallow with Northern Colorado headed to Missoula for Homecoming on Saturday.

There’s several ways a team can react, but I’ve always believed while such adversity doesn’t have to define a season, leadership within a team is as important as anything a coaching staff can do in determining how a team reacts.

Only time will tell.

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Now in his 27th year of broadcasting University of Montana football or basketball games, award winning journalist Mick Holien has a unique and insightful perspective on collegiateathletics.