FCS Playoffs First Round: At Montana 52, San Diego 14 (PHOTO GALLERY)


The University of Montana dominated on both side of the football, and the result was a 52-14 victory over the visiting University of San Diego Toreros in a first round NCAA FCS playoff game in UM’s Washington-Grizzly Stadium Saturday afternoon.

With the victory, Montana (9-4) advances to the second round of the playoffs, and will play fellow Big Sky Conference member and league champion Eastern Washington (10-2), Saturday, Dec. 6, in Cheney.

The Grizzlies scored on six of their first eight possessions in the first half and held the Toreros (9-3) of the Pioneer Football League scoreless, to jump to an insurmountable 38-0 halftime lead.

Montana grabbed an early 7-0 lead with 8:38 left in the first quarter on a 22-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jordan Johnson to junior wide receiver Jamaal Jones. The Griz opened up a 14-0 advantage late (1:14) in the opening quarter on a 3-yard scoring pass from Johnson to senior halfback Jordan Canada.


Montana vs San Diego. 1st Round FCS Playoff Game. Nov. 29, 2014. Photo by ©Mark Mesenko for Make it Missoula.

The Grizzlies then scored on all four of their possession in the second quarter, and when Canada scored again, this time from 17 yards out, UM led 38-to-zip with 2:34 remaining until intermission.

Sophomore running back John Nguyen started UM’s second quarter scoring onslaught by scoring on a 60-yard punt return, which was his first TD return and the longest punt return of his career, and gave the Griz a 21-0 lead.

Junior kicker Daniel’s Sullivan’s 41-yard field goal upped the Grizzlies’ lead to 24-0 at the 10:20 mark of the second stanza. After Sullivan’s three-pointer, there was another Johnson-to-Jones hook-up, this one covering 30 yards, and that TD was followed by Canada’s 17-yard jaunt, and Montana never looked back.

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Montana vs San Diego. 1st Round FCS Playoff Game. Nov. 29, 2014. Photo by ©Mark Mesenko for Make it Missoula.

The Griz tallied two more unanswered touchdowns on TD throws of 18 and 12 yards by senior QB Shay Smithwick-Hann to redshirt freshman receiver Josh Janssen (with 7:37 to go in the third quarter) and senior wide-out Kevin Berland. Berland, who made his first career catch earlier in the game, gave the Griz a 52-0 cushion on his TD reception, which came with 12:16 remaining in the fourth quarter.

USD finally scored with 6:05 left to play on a scoring pass from halfback Dallas Kessman to freshman wide receiver Justin Priest from 27 yards out. Priest scored again on an 11-yard touchdown throw from junior QB Trey Wheeler, which made the score 52-14, UM, with 2:28 left.

The way Montana controlled the game is evident in the first half statistics. The Grizzlies out-gained the Toreros 315 to 17 in total yards, and had 18 first downs compared to USD’s one. Most of Montana’s starters played in just the first half.

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Montana vs San Diego. 1st Round FCS Playoff Game. Nov. 29, 2014. Photo by ©Mark Mesenko for Make it Missoula.

Johnson was 13-of-20-0 for 153 yards and 3 TDs, while Canada had 17 carries for 105 yards rushing with a scored one touchdown rushing and one receiving, and Jones had 6 receptions for 93 yards and 2 scores – all of those yards for those three players were accumulated in the first half.

Jones become the 13th player in school history to have more than 1,000 receiving yards in a season, and his 1,036 yards in 2014 rank him ninth all-time. Canada now has 1,116 yards rushing this year, which ranks him ninth on the career list.

Most of UM’s defensive starters also did not play in the second half, but that did not prevent senior defensive end Zack Wagenmann from breaking another school record. A sack in the second quarter gave him his 49th career tackle for loss, and he passed former end Tim Bush (48.5, 2000-03) to become UM’s all-time leader in that category. He also added to his career record totals in career sacks (34.5) and career forced fumbles (11).

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Montana vs San Diego. 1st Round FCS Playoff Game. Nov. 29, 2014. Photo by ©Mark Mesenko for Make it Missoula.

Redshirt freshman linebacker Tucker Schye led UM’s defense with a career-high 8 tackles. Junior safety Eric Johnson and redshirt freshman linebacker Connor Strahm added 5 tackles apiece for the Griz.

Picture14True freshman running back Lorenzo Logwood rushed 17 times for 59 yards, while Nguyen had 4 totes for 42 yards, and redshirt freshman Treshawn Favor had 9 carries for 36 yards. Berland finished with 3 grabs for 42 yards and a TD, while Janssen had 2 catches for 31.

USD starting sophomore quarterback Keith Williams was 6-of-18-0 for 34 yards, while Wheeler was 4-of-4 for 41 yards. Kessman had a team-high 30 yards rushing on 10 carries. Senior free safety Matt Miller led USD with a game-high 13 tackles.

The Griz-Eagle FCS playoff game starts at 2:35 p.m. (Mtn.) next Saturday, and will be televised on ESPN3.