Griz Make Statement With Dominant Win Over #3 Weber State


In one of the biggest games in the history of Washington-Grizzly Stadium, the Montana Grizzlies left no doubt. Fueled by big plays and a dominant defense, the No. 4/5 Griz rolled to a 35-16 win against No. 3 Weber State in a battle of the Big Sky’s top two teams. The win is the 250th in Big Sky history for the Grizzlies, who finish the regular season with a perfect 6-0 record at home.

The Wildcats entered the game with an undefeated mark against FCS opponents and in control of the Big Sky Conference with a 6-0 mark in league play. In fact, WSU hadn’t lost to a Big Sky opponent since Oct. 6, 2018. But Montana controlled the game from the very start, building an early lead and never looking back.

“It was pretty outstanding by these guys,” Head Coach Bobby Hauck said following the game. “We played well in all three phases of the game, and I thought our preparation all week was outstanding. I thought that the entire team took to heart that we had a big game this weekend, and the preparation was such that we were going to be hard to beat. Then we came out, played well, and took care of business in a big, big way.”

The Grizzlies gained the lead on the back of two massive special teams plays that set the offense up with short fields. They also had a plethora of big offensive plays as Samori Toure continued his three-game stretch of incredible play. The receiver had three touchdowns, two of which were from more than 50 yards out. He finished the day with a career-high 193 yards on eight catches.

In the last three games, Toure is now up to 24 catches, 462 yards, and seven touchdowns.

“It is just a matter of going in there and doing your 1/11th every time you step on the field,” Toure said. “Most of our plays, we don’t know where the ball is going, so everyone has to do their job to their best in case the ball ends up in their hands, and that’s what I did.”

The defense also put together what is likely its best performance of the season, limiting the high-powered WSU rushing offense to just 69 rushing yards on 39 attempts (1.9 per rush). It was the fewest points allowed in a game this season for the Grizzly defense, who were led by the trio of Jace LewisDante Olson, and Robby Hauck that combined for 39 stops.

“It depends on the opponent certainly, but they averaged under two yards a carry,” Hauck said of the rush defense. “When they are one point something, with what they want to do, it is going to be hard for them to win. That was the emphasis for our defense this week, and our assistant coaches did a great job putting a plan together and calling it and our guys executed well.”

Olson finished with 13 tackles and moved into third place in Montana history with 351 career takedowns.

Montana also forced the Wildcats into four turnovers, picking off starting quarterback Jake Constantine three times. Safeties Josh Sandry and Gavin Robertson each had an interception, and defensive end Alex Gubner extended his team lead with his fourth INT on the year.

The defense allowed just three scores in five red-zone trips to a Wildcat team that led the conference in that area coming into the game. They kept the Wildcats out of the end zone for over 50 minutes and also limited WSU to just six third-down conversions in 20 attempts.

The Griz had nine different players with at least a share of a tackle for loss as they combined to bring the Wildcats down behind the line of scrimmage eight times. Patrick O’Connell had 1.5 sacks as well as the pressure continued to get home for the Grizzlies.

“We were just doing our thing like we do each and every week,” Sandry said of the defensive effort. “Nothing new, we were just playing ball and making plays. Any time you can get a big win like this against a good opponent, it is huge.”

The solid defensive performance and early lead allowed the Grizzlies to pound it on the ground in the second half. Marcus Knight finished with a team-high 79 yards rushing on 14 attempts, averaging over five yards per carry. He also found the end zone twice and is up to 19 touchdowns on the year.

Knight is heading toward what could potentially be a record-setting year. His total touchdown number brings him into a tie with Joe Douglass for the third-most in a single season in program history. His 18 rushing touchdowns are also the third-most in a single season in Montana history, and he is only the second player to reach that mark. Chase Reynolds ran for 22 touchdowns in 2008 and 2009.

Dalton Sneed also had a solid day under center, passing for 265 yards and three scores. He completed 68 percent of his passes but was intercepted twice.

Weber State is now the highest-ranked opponent Montana has defeated since knocking off No. 3 Northern Iowa in 2016. It was the first matchup between top-five teams inside of Washington-Grizzly Stadium since Dave Dickenson led the top-ranked Griz to a win over No. 3 Idaho in 1994. The crowd didn’t disappoint, providing a playoff atmosphere from the start.

“It was just electric,” Toure said of the crowd. “We could feel it, we were feeding off of it, and it is something that we feel like gives us a great advantage, so shoutout to our fans for bringing that energy.”

The game tilted in Montana’s favor right out of the gates. Listed as a quarterback on the roster, freshman Garrett Graves has made a significant impact on special teams all season. He showed that big-play ability again Saturday, blocking a punt on Weber State’s first possession. It set the tone for a day that was all Montana.

“I thought the fellas in the kicking unit were geared up and ready to go from the first play on and played outstanding,” Hauck said. “It’s a team effort, and the field position battle was ours, the big play battle was ours, and the rush offense and rush defense battles were ours, and when you can do that, you can win.”

The block set Montana up just 30 yards away from a score, and they didn’t waste any time, ratting off 30 yards in just four plays. Dalton Sneed found Toure for his first of the day on a wide-open crossing route.

Weber State answered with a field goal late in the quarter, but Montana didn’t flinch. A team that has been prone to slow starts delivered a haymaker as a response. Sneed found Toure across the middle again, the receiver dodged one tackler and sprinted 79 yards to the house.

Montana accomplished one of the biggest keys coming into the game; win the first quarter. The Wildcats have had success this season, taking leads on teams and pounding the ball, controlling the clock and the game. Montana, meanwhile, has been prone to slow starts and had been outscored by 18 points in the first quarter this season. Not this time. Toure continued his incredible hot streak and gave the Griz a double-digit lead after the opening frame.

Less than a minute into the second quarter, special teams once again played a massive role in the game. Weber State couldn’t handle the snap on a punt and turned the ball over to the Griz just outside the red zone. Two plays later, Montana was in the endzone again. Marcus Knight bounced outside, then cut back up the middle for a 15-yard score to make it 21-3 Montana.

Montana’s quick-strike offense and big-play special teams helped build the 18 point lead despite the Grizzlies having the ball for just four of the first 16 minutes. The Wildcats had the best defense in the Big Sky coming in, allowing just 20.7 points per game. In four minutes of possession, Montana eclipsed that total.

The defense joined the big play party for the Griz midway through the second quarter. On third down at midfield, Weber State threw a slant across the middle that was deflected into the hands of Olson. He couldn’t secure it, batting it straight into the air for Josh Sandry to come in and make the play. The senior secured it, giving Montana the ball back again at the 50-yard line.

The Griz couldn’t score, and the Wildcats threatened late in the half. A long drive came to a halt on third down, when another bad span backed Weber State up 20 yards. They still attempted a 50-yard field goal, but a miss gave the Grizzlies a 21-3 halftime advantage.

At the break, Lewis and Olson had 19 combined tackles. Weber State, as a team, had 18.

The big plays didn’t stop in the second half. On Montana’s first drive, they scored in just three plays on a big pass play to who else but Samori Toure. Another quick slant gained him enough separation for a 59-yard score that made it 28-3 Montana.

Montana’s defense got a stop, but the Grizzlies made their first mistake of the day on the ensuing offensive possession as Sneed was intercepted deep in Weber State territory. But the defense delivered another stop to put it back in the hands of Sneed and company.

The Grizzlies scored again on their longest drive of the game, which still took just 2:39 off the clock. It was Knight who eventually finished the drive with his 19th touchdown of the season.

Weber State made another defensive stop with an interception of Sneed inside Montana territory. The Wildcats made it inside the 10-yard line, but just as they had all day, the Grizzly defense found a way. Olson provided a big hit as the quarterback flipped a pass up, and Gavin Robertson made a play in the back of the endzone to come down with an interception.

The Wildcats entered Saturday scoring on 92 percent of their red zone drives, the best mark in the Big Sky and tied for seventh in the country. The Robertson interception brought them to just one for three on the day inside the 20.

The Grizzly defense forced another turnover its next time out as a pass was batted at the line. Big No. 99 Alex Gubner hauled the pass in for his team-leading fourth interception of the season. After the pick, Montana brought in backup quarterback Cam Humphery to see the game out.

Weber State scored a couple of times down the stretch to close the gap to 19 points, but Montana didn’t leave much for interpretation. The win solidified them as one of the best teams in the FCS and has them in position to claim a share of the Big Sky Championship next week in Bozeman.

“It’s kind of where we anticipate being,” Hauck said of Montana’s position atop the conference. “Obviously, that means we’ve put in a lot of hard work and won some tough football games. Now we have to finish the season out.”