Griz Beat Vikings 55-27 in Homecoming Contest


The 10th-ranked University of Montana Grizzlies scored on five of their first six possessions, and the defense had a pair of impressive goal-line stands in a 55-27 Big Sky Conference victory over the Portland State Vikings in UM’s homecoming game Saturday afternoon in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. (Griz vs Vikings STATS PDF)

The Grizzlies improved to 4-1 overall and evened their league mark to 1-1, and have won 18 of their last 19 homecoming games.  The Vikings are now 3-3/0-2.  It was UM’s eighth win in a row over PSU, and the Vikings have now lost 10 straight in Missoula.

In the victory, Montana also exhibited a power running game, rushing 47 times for 368 yards (and 17 first downs) – an average of 8.0 yards per attempt.

The Griz went three-and-out their first time on offense, but then ripped out five straight scores, and on the fifth – a 2-yard touchdown run by halfback Jordan Canada, they took a 35-13 lead with 8:16 left until halftime.

Senior tight end Clay Pierson started UM’s scoring onslaught with a 36-yard scoring pass from quarterback Jordan Johnson with 12:22 to go in the opening quarter.  It was Pierson’s first catch of the season, and ended up with two more touchdown receptions in the contest.

After UM’s initial score PSU, answered with one of its own, as quarterback Kieran McDonagh connected with running back Shaq Richard on a 32-yard touchdown pass.  An errant center snap from center foiled the Vikings’ PAT attempt, and the Griz had a slim, 7-6 lead at 10:45 in the first stanza.

Montana took a 14-6 lead on its next possession as halfback Travon Van broke loose for a 42-yard touchdown run with 8:06 remaining in the first quarter.  PSU fumbled on its own 2-yard line on its next series, and UM linebacker Jordan Tripp recovered the ball in the end zone for a TD, and UM took a 21-6 lead with 7:18 to go in the first quarter.

PSU cut the UM lead to 21-13 on a touchdown pass, but the Griz responded with back-to-back touchdowns, on a pass from Johnson to wide-out Cam Warren, and Canada’s 2-yarder, and UM took a 22-point (35-13) lead.  The Vikings scored with 1:31 left until halftime, as the Griz led 35-20 at intermission.

UM’s first big goal-line stand came mid-way through the second quarter, when PSU had first-and-goal at the Grizzlies’ 5-yard line.  Senior cornerback Anthony Goodwin had two pass deflections, and Tripp stopped PSU running back DJ Adams for a 2-yard loss, as the Griz held the Vikings out of the endzone.

Montana scored on its first four possessions of the second half, and jumped to an insurmountable 55-20 advantage with 9:02 left to play.  The Grizzlies’ scoring plays in the last two quarters were a pair of touchdown passes (25, 10) from Johnson to Pierson, and two field goals by kicker Ben Worst.

The Grizzlies’ other impressive goal-line stop occurred in the middle of the third quarter, when the Vikings had a first-and-goal on UM’s 3-yard line.  On first down McDonagh rushed to the 1-yard line, but after short gain that he had an incomplete pass, Adams was stopped (on a tackle by Zack Wagenmann) for a 1-yard loss, and then McDonagh was stopped at the 1-yard line on a tackle by Alex Bienemann and Wagenmann, and PSU was once again denied any points.

Van and Canada both had 100-plus yard rushing games.  Van gained a career-high 136 yards on just 14 carries, and Canada gained 102 on 13 attempts.  Joey Counts added 79 hard-earned yards on 10 totes.

Johnson was a solid 12-of-24-0 for 203 yards and 4 touchdowns, and also had three carries for 32 yards.  Pierson had 3 catches – all three went for TDs.  Warren and Mitch Saylor also had 3 catches each.

Tripp had a game-high 10 tackles, a TFL, and the fumble recovery for the TD.  Linebacker Brock Coyle and end Derek Crittenden had 9 tackles apiece.  Goodwin had 2 interceptions and will remain among the FCS leaders in pass break-ups, as he had 7 PDs to go along with 3 tackles.  UM cornerback Nate Harris also had a pick in the game.

Adams rushed 18 times for 79 yards.  McDonagh was 18-of-32-2 for 266 yards and two scores, and held to 13 yards rushing on just six attempts.  PSU receiver Victor Dean, a 6-6 junior, had 4 grabs for 118 yards and 2 TDs.

The Griz are at UC Davis next Saturday, Oct. 12, for a 5:00 p.m. game (Mountain), while PSU is at Southern Utah that day.  UC Davis won 21-3 at Southern Utah today.