Griz Fall to Wyoming 17-12 in Season Opener


The University of Montana gave the University of Wyoming everything it wanted in the teams’ 2014 opener and had to endure two long delays due to lightening strikes which lasted a total of 57 minutes, losing 17-12 setback to the FBS Cowboys in front of 25,243 fans in UW’s Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium.

The game’s second lightening strike delay came with 13:28 to play and lasted 32 minutes, while the first came with about 12 minutes remaining in the halftime break, and it took 25 minutes. The game lasted a total of four hours and three minutes.

The Grizzlies made a run at the Cowboys late in the game, as senior quarterback Jordan Johnson tossed a 16-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman tight end Mike Ralston, cutting Wyoming’s lead to 17-12. After the Johnson-to-Ralston TD hook-up, UM’s two-point conversion try failed, and the Griz trailed by five point (17-12) with 8:20 left to play.

The Cowboys went ahead 10-6 and took the lead for good with 5:10 to go in the third quarter on a 5-yard scoring run by junior halfback Shaun Wick. Wyoming had started that go-ahead drive on their own 42-yard line when Griz went for a first down on a fourth-and-long and Johnson was sacked for a 6-yard loss.

Wyoming upped its lead to 17-6 with 2:11 to go in third period, when sophomore halfback C.J. May broke off left tackle and raced 58 yards untouched to the end zone for a touchdown.

Montana took a 6-3 lead and scored the only second-quarter points with 11:28 to go in that period on 26-yard touchdown pass from sophomore wide receiver Ryan Burke to redshirt freshman Josh Janssen on and end-around play. Sophomore kicker Harrison Greenberg’s PAT attempt was not good, as it bounced off the left cross bar of the goal post.

Picture21Janssen’s first career catch and TD was set up by a sack and a forced fumble of redshirt freshman quarterback Colby Kirkegaard by Griz junior defensive end Tyrone Holmes, and that fumble was recovered by senior tackle Trevor Rehm, giving UM possession on its own 36-yard line.

The Cowboys got on the board first and scored the only points in the opening quarter on their first possession, a 12-play, 57-yard drive that took 5:59, and culminated it with a 41-yard field goal by senior kicker Stuart Williams. That made the score 3-0 UW at 7:17 left in the first quarter.

wyoming had a chance to regain the lead in the second stanza when Eric Nrzeocha blocked a punt by UM’s Stephen Shaw, which was recovered by Brian Hill on Montana’s 9-yard line with 2:09 to go until intermission. However the drive was halted when Griz junior linebacker Jeremiah Kose intercepted Kirkegaard’s pass in the end zone.

Both defenses were stellar, as the Cowboys were limited to 301 total yards on 67 plays and the Grizzlies had 253 yards on 65 plays. Wyoming ended up with 17 first downs, to UM’s 12.

The Cowboys had a substantial advantage in rushing yards, picking up 209 yards on 46 carries, while the Grizzlies gained 42 on 19 totes. Wyoming had an edge of more than 10 minutes in time of possession (34:54 to 25:04) over

Senior halfback/receiver Travon Van had a career-high 9 catches for 66 yards. Junior wide receiver Ellis Henderson had 5 catches for 48 yards, while junior wide receiver Jamaal Jones had 3 receptions for 16 yards.

Johnson completed 24-of 45 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown. Johnson now has 6,016 career passing yards moves him up to eighth all-time, as he passes Drew Miller (5,900 yards, 1999-2000). Van led UM with 19 yards rushing on 8 caries, while Johnson had 13 yards on 4 rushes.

Junior linebacker Kendrick Van Ackeren led the Griz with a game and career-high 14 tackles, while senior safety Matt Hermanson had 11, and junior linebacker Herbert Gamboa added 10.

Senior defensive end Zack Wagenmann added 2 sacks and 7 tackles. Kose also had 7 tackles along with a pick.

Wagenmann now has 22 career sacks, tying him with safety Trey Young (22, 1999-2002) for the seventh most in school history.

Kirkegaard was 13-21-1 for 92 yards. Wick rushed 15 times for 100 yards and a TD.

The Grizzlies host Central Washington in their home opener next Saturday, Sept. 6, with kickoff slated for 3:30 p.m. in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. The Cowboys host Air Force in their Mountain West Conference opener next Saturday.