Henderson’s 98-Yard Kickoff Return Gives Griz a 31-27 Win Over USD

By DAVE GUFFEY for GoGriz.com

Sophomore wide receiver Ellis Henderson scored on a 98-yard kickoff return with 1:36 remaining in the game to give the University of Montana Grizzlies an emotional, hard-fought 31-27 non-league victory over the University of South Dakota Coyotes, Saturday afternoon in USD’s Dakota Dome.

The Griz keep their FCS playoff hopes very alive and improved to 8-2 overall. The Coyotes, who are coached by former UM mentor Joe Glenn are much better than their 4-6 overall record indicates.

Montana has won three of its last four games on dramatic, last-second touchdowns. Last Saturday the Griz won 51-48 in overtime at Sacramento State, while three week ago they defeated visiting Cal Poly 21-14 in OT.

The Coyotes had regained the lead at 27-24 with 1:48 to go in the contest on a 38-yard field goal by freshman kicker Miles Bergner.

Grizzly Football. Photo by Patrick Record

The first tie of the game came on a big play by Montana with 6:33 left to play, when USD freshman halfback Trevor Bouma was tackled by senior linebacker Jordan Tripp and the ball popped into the air and bounced into the arms of junior free safety Matt Hermanson who returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. Hermanson’s (from Sioux Falls, S.D.) huge take-away tied the game at 24-24.

After the teams combined for 41 first-half points the defenses dominated in the third quarter, as neither teams could muster any points.

Henderson ended with 4 catches for a career-high 188 yards and 2 TDs, and had 315 all-purpose yards. Griz tight end Clay Pierson added 4 grabs, while wide-outs Cam Warren and Jamaal Jones had 3 catches each.

UM quarterback Jordan Johnson was 17-of-33-3 for 337 yards and 2 TDs. Halfback Jordan Canada rushed 13 times for 40 yards.

Tripp led the Griz with a game-high 9 tackles, while cornerback Josh Dennard had 8 stops, and defensive tackle Alex Bienemann and Hermanson had 7 tackles apiece.

Montana took its first lead of the game on a 70-yard pass from Johnson to Henderson with 13:26 left in the second quarter. But, USD quickly regained the lead on its next possession when QB Kevin Earl threw a 2-yard TD pass to Josh Vander Maten, making the score 21-14 Coyotes with 9:22 to go in the second quarter. USD then went ahead 24-17 on a 21-yard field goal by Bergner as time expired in the half.

USD took an early (14:05 in the first quarter) 7-0 lead when free safety Aaron Swift picked off a Johnson pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. UM cut the USD lead to 7-3 on a 46-yard field goal by Ben Worst, making the score 7-3 with 10:05 left in the opening quarter.

The Coyotes went ahead 14-3 with 6:30 to go on a 38-yard run by Bouma with 6:30 remaining in the first stanza. The Griz came right back, though, as Johnson hit Henderson for a 6-yard TD pass with 4:34 left in the first quarter. The big play of UM’s score was set up by a 67-yard completion from Johnson to Henderson.

Earl was 27-of-45-0 for 235 yards and a TD. Bouma rushed 25 times for 147 yards and a TD.

The Griz host Weber State in a Big Sky Conference game next Saturday, Nov. 16, on “Senior Day” in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. USD hosts 19th-ranked South Dakota State.

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