Gustafson Shines in Grizzlies’ Spring Game in Helena


Quarterback Brady Gustafson threw four touchdown passes to lead the way for the University of Montana Grizzlies in their annual Spring game on a sunny, windy Saturday afternoon in Carroll College’s Nelson Stadium

The Grizzlies and Saints held back-to-back scrimmages today in the Capital City, as both teams concluded their 2015 spring drills.

“We had some good stuff going on – that’s a good defense out there,” said Griz head coach Bob Stitt. “We feel like our defense is as good as what we’re going to see next year. We did have some good things going, but I was disappointed with a lot of dropped balls and some communication.

“We had some checks that the receivers didn’t catch and we would have some better plays on offense,” Stitt continued. “But, what I liked about the offense was that when we had the short field we got points out of it, and our defense if s going to get us a lot of short fields next year.”

Junior QB Brady Gustafson

Junior Quarterback, Brady Gustafson. Photo courtesy of UM.

Gustafson, a 6-7, 235-pound junior from Billings (West High School), paced the offense with the first three scores of the scrimmage – all via the passing game. His first touchdown pass was a 17-yarder to redshirt freshman wide receiver Reese Carlson; his second was a 2-yard completion to junior wide-out Ryan Burke; and his third TD strike came on an 18-yard throw to senior wide receiver Jamaal Jones.

“Brady is really grasping it, and every rep he takes he gets better,” Stitt said. “He’s got all summer now to rep it, and he’s got all fall camp; and he’s going to continue to get better – and he did all throughout spring. He never took a step backwards.

“He (Gustafson) got us into some good stuff,” Stitt continued. “He checked the one (touchdown pass) to Reece that we hadn’t run all spring. When they’re (the quarterbacks) checking things every single day and getting a chance to call them every single day, that’s big time. He had that in the back of his mind, and we talked about it a couple of days ago and he said ‘hey if I’ve go man I am going to check to that play,’ and he did, and got the touchdown.

“You know you hate to talk about it until you go back and watch the tape,” said Stitt when asked about what he thought about the play of the four other quarterbacks. “But, I think all of those guys had some good things today, and they’re going to learn from it. We’re just waiting for that next guy to separate himself and become the strong back-up.”

The fourth score of the afternoon was tallied by wide receiver/returner Ellis Henderson, who electrified the crowd when be broke loose first down the left sideline, and he then made a cut up the middle, then raced over to the right sideline, en route to a 92-yard kickoff return for a score.

Henderson, a 6-0, 185-pound senior from Spanaway, Wash., was an All-Big Sky Conference selection in 2013, and missed most of last season due to an illness. He also scored the final touchdown of the day, this one coming on Gustafson’s fourth scoring pass — a 14-yarder.

BBQ“He’s a big-play guy,” said Stitt about Henderson. “We need that. We need somebody who can bust the top off of a route, and be big for us in our return game. He showed what he can do today. It’s nice to have him out there.”

The other scores on the afternoon were thanks to kicking game, as senior Chris Lider connected on a 26-yard field goal and junior Harrison booted a three-pointer from 33 yards out.

The Griz will take the next three-plus months off and begin fall camp in early August. Montana opens its 2015 season at home on August 29, hosting three-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State on a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN.


PASSING: Brady Gustafson: 17-31-1 for 167 yards 4 TDs; Eric Prater: 5-of115-1 for 42 yards; Chad Chalich: 0-3; Willy Pflug: 4-of-8-1 for 25 yards; Makena Simis: 4-9-0 for 29 yards.

RUSHING LEADERS: Carl Johnson: 4 for 14; Simis: for 10; Lorenzo Logwood: 17 for 88; Austin Spring: 3 for 27; John Nguyen: 9 for 40.

RECEIVING: Chase Naccarato: 3 for 11; Jamaal Jones: 2 for 86/ TD; Ellis Henderson 3 for 31/TD; Josh Janssen: 1 for 8; Zach Hollenbeck: 3 for 20; Caleb Lyons: 3 for 19; Spring: 2 for 14; Nguyen: 4 for 8; Jeffery Salamon: 3 for 22; Ryan Burke: 2 for 9/TD; Carlson: 4 for 44/TD.

DEFENSIVE HIGHLIGHTS: INTERCEPTIONS: JR Nelson, Evan Epperly, Alex Thomas. MISC.: JR Nelson, blocked PAT for a 2-point conversion.