At Eastern Washington 36, Montana 26


The #11-ranked University of Montana Grizzlies battled back from a 23-point deficit (33-10), but fell short, losing 36-26 to the host and 5th-ranked Washington Eagles in a pivotal Big Sky Conference game Saturday afternoon in front of a season-high 11,339 fans – the third largest ever at EWU’s Roos Field.

EWU maintained its tie for first place in the Big Sky by improving to 6-1 in league and is improved to 9-2 overall. Montana saw its conference title and playoff hopes fade, as it goes to 4-2 in the conference and 6-4 overall.

The Eagles were led by junior quarterback Vernon Adams Jr,, who passed for 399 yards and 4 touchdowns. Adams, who started today, had missed EWU’s last four games due to a foot injury

The Griz kept their comeback hopes alive and made it a one-possession game with 5:56 left in the game when junior kicker Daniel Sullivan booted a 40-yard field goal, making the score 33-26. But, the Eagles put the game out of range with 28 seconds to play on a 37-yard field goal by junior place-kicker Tyler McNannay and EWU took a 36-26 lead.

Montana scored its second touchdown in a row of the third quarter on a 38-yard scoring pass from senior quarterback Jordan Johnson to junior wide receiver Jamaal Jones, making the score 33-23 EWU with 49 seconds left in that stanza. The Johnson-to-Jones TD was set up when junior defensive end Tyrone Holmes stripped the ball from Adams and his fumble was recovered by junior end Derek Crittenden.

The Grizzlies had got their first points of the third quarter and cut the Eagles’ lead to 33-17, when Johnson threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to senior halfback/wide receiver Travon Van, at the 4:55 mark..

The Eagles had scored back-to-back touchdowns in a little over a minute in the third quarter, and jumped to a 33-10 lead on a 67-yard punt return by sophomore wide receiver Cooper Kupp with 8:13 to go in that stanza. EWU had widened its lead to 27-10 with 9:34 left in the third quarter when Adams threw a 38-yard TD pass to the

fourth different receiver, this one going to Kupp.

EWU needed just 1:21 and seven plays to regain their double-digit lead, this time Adams connecting with sophomore wide-out Kendrick Bourne for a 34-yard TD pass, and EWU jumped to a 20-10 at halftime edge.

Montana scored its first touchdown of the game when Johnson tossed a 28-yard scoring pass to sophomore wide receiver Ryan Burke who was wide open in the left side of the end zone. Junior kicker Daniel Sullivan’s PAT cut the EWU lead to 13-10 with 1:38 to go until halftime.

The Griz took their only lead of the game and scored their sole points of the first half, on a 24-yard field goal by Sullivan with 5:23 to go in the first quarter. Montana had moved the ball on the drive and had a first down on the EWU 11-yard line, but the drive was stopped and it had to settle for three points.

The Grizzlies’ lead was short-lived, though, as the Eagles went 75 yards in five plays and took a 7-3 lead, as Adams hit junior wide receiver Shaq Hill for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 3:36 left in the opening quarter. EWU took a double-digit lead with 22 seconds remaining in the first quarter when Adams connected with true freshman wide receiver Nic Slebendorio, who made a one-armed catch in the end zone for a 32-yard scoring catch, and the Eagles missed the PAT and took a 13-3 advantage.

Johnson competed 29-of-50-2 for 447 yards – all career-highs for 3 touchdowns. Jones had a career-high 9 catches for a game-high 139 yards and a TD, while Van had 6 grabs for 87 yards and a touchdown, and Saylor added 5 receptions for 66 yards, and Burke had 4 for 65 and a score.

Johnson now has 7,739 career passing yards to move up to fourth in school history, passing Cole Bergquist (7,505 yards, 2005-08).

Jones now has 899 receiving yards this year, which ranks him 14th on UM’s single-season list. Jones’ 1,601 career receiving yards move him up to 22nd on the all-time list.

Adams was 24-of-36-0 for his 399 yards and 4 TDs. Kupp had 8 catches for 134 yards. EWU senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin had 9 tackles, which gives him 440 in his career, as he becomes the Eagles’ all-time leader.

The Griz “D” was led by linebacker Hebert Gamboa with 10 tackles, while fellow junior linebackers Jeremiah Kose and Kendrick Van Ackeren added 9 and 8 tackles, respectively. Gamboa also had 3 sacks, while Kose had 2 stops for losses.

UM senior defensive end Zack Wagenmann had a sack in the game, giving him 31.5 in his career. He trails all-time leader Tim Bush (32.5, 2000-03) by just one sack and second-place Kroy Biermannn (32, 2004-07) by only a half-a-sack.

Griz senior safety Matt Hermanson had 7 tackles today, which gives him 318 in his career, and he passes former safety Colt Anderson (313, 2004-08) on the career list.

Montana is on the road next Saturday, Nov. 15, playing Southern Utah in a Big Sky game. The Eagles are off next Saturday and conclude their regular-season with a league contest at Portland State on Friday, Nov. 21.