Montana Overcomes Early Errors to Beat Idaho


Another early deficit, another large win at home. Saturdays inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium have followed a pretty familiar script this season, and that trend continued in a 42-17 win against Idaho. The details were a little different this time around, but the No. 6 Grizzlies scored 28 unanswered points in three quarters after facing a double-digit deficit early en route to the win.

It is the 10th win in the last 12 meetings between the Vandals and Grizzlies and improved Montana to 2-0 against Idaho since it returned to the Big Sky. Montana also retained ownership of the Little Brown Stein and moved to 8-2 on the season in the process. The win improves their postseason chances dramatically as Montana now prepares to face off against a pair of top-25 teams in its final two games of the season.

“It was a good hard-fought win for our team. Our defense held the rope for us,” Head Coach Bobby Hauck said. “We were struggling on offense. With the three turnovers in the first quarter, we were lucky to not be down 28-0 or something, and after we got that fixed, we played really well in all three phases. It was a great win for us.”

Dalton Sneed. Photo courtesy of Grizzly Athletics.

Montana received a breakout performance by true freshman Nick Ostmo, who ran for the first two touchdowns of his career. His fellow running back Marcus Knight had a trio of touchdowns, as the running game was limited in yardage but not in impact.

The most important moment of the game came on Montana’s first drive of the second quarter when starting quarterback Dalton Sneed took the field for the first time since being injured on Oct. 19. Sneed’s return fired up the crowd, and quickly paid dividends.

After Montana’s offense had turned the ball over three times in its first three drives, Sneed led the Griz to a touchdown that flipped the momentum of the game. The emotion was evident in the senior quarterback, who summed up how he felt about returning to the field following the game.

“No better feeling than playing football,” Sneed said. “I’ve got such great teammates and coaches around me. They were out there saying, ‘Hey man, we are going to go do this together.’ It’s a team sport, a team game, and I was just happy to be out there.”

As a team, they would go on to score 28 straight points and close the game on a 42-10 run. It was the latest comeback for a Griz team that has made a living in the second half this year. The Grizzlies outscored the Vandals by 21 in the second half on Saturday, bringing their season-long point differential in the second half to +154.

“I’m proud of our guys because we weathered the storm and then won going away,” Hauck said. “They have a game bunch, but I think we have a pretty good football team.”

In his return, Sneed threw for 241 yards and a touchdown to lead the Grizzlies to the win. He fed the hot hand of Samori Toure, who had nine catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. In the last two games, Toure has 16 catches for 269 yards and four scores.

Touchdown! Photo Courtesy of Grizzly Athletics.

“Samori, what he has done this whole season, he’s making great plays for us, and so you just put the ball in the air and let that guy go get it because that’s what he does,” Sneed said of his receiver. “He constantly does that week in and week out.”

The Grizzly defense locked up Idaho’s offense for most of the game. After the Vandals scored on two of their first four drives of the game, Montana allowed just one score over the final eight drives of the game. They also flipped the story in the turnover game. Montana turned the ball over three times early, but the defense kept working and ended up forcing Idaho into four turnovers of their own.

Jesse Sims and Milton Mamula each forced a fumble, while Dante Olson and Patrick O’Connell fell on top of them. Joe Babros and Nash Fouch each added an interception as well, as Montana fought their way back and won the turnover battle.

They had a difficult time containing elusive Idaho quarterback Mason Petrino early, but as the game wore on, the Grizzlies had more and more success. The defense has consistently ground away at opposing offenses all year, and Saturday was no exception.

“He’s a great player, and he scrambles out there like a madman,” O’Connell said of Petrino. “We were chasing him down a lot, we missed a few tackles, but we brought it in together and talked about it. We kept going after him, and we were able to get him down.”

Olson had yet another big game, recording 13 tackles (six of which were solo) and a massive 14-yard sack to go along with his fumble recovery. Mamula had two sacks himself as the Grizzlies were able to bring Petrino down five times on the game. Robby Hauck also had a nice day with 10 tackles.

Early in the game, it was the turnovers that helped the Vandals build a lead. Montana turned it over on its first three possessions, which Idaho turned into 10 points. Montana faced another early deficit but had plenty of game left.

Enter Dalton Sneed.

The Grizzly quarterback returned for Montana’s first drive of the second quarter and quickly connected on two big passes for 42 yards. Add in an unsportsmanlike penalty by Idaho, and the Griz were back in the red zone. Nick Ostmo capped off an impressive drive with a seven-yard rushing touchdown, the first of his career.

Samori Toure. Photo Courtesy of Grizzly Athletics.

What was running through the mind of the quarterback before he returned to the field?

“Just wanted to move the ball down the field. Nothing new,” Sneed said.

The Grizzlies had another chance to score at the end of the half after a good defensive stop. Samori Toure gave the Griz their first lead of the game with two massive plays. First, a 31-yard reception down the sideline that he hauled in with one hand. Then he found all sorts of space across the middle of the field, breaking free for a 44-yard touchdown grab.

It kept an impressive streak going for Toure, who had three touchdown catches last week against Portland State. In the first half alone on Saturday, he had five catches for 101 yards and a score.

There was still time on the clock for Idaho to drive, and they had a decent one started. The Vandals made it into Grizzly territory with less than a minute left, but a 14-yard sack by Dante Olson ended the half with Montana holding all the momentum.

The teams traded unsuccessful drives coming out of the half, but Montana made a huge defensive play to set up another score. Milton Mamula chased down Idaho quarterback Mason Petrino, sacking him from behind and forcing a fumble in the process. Patrick O’Connell recovered on Idaho’s 30-yard line, putting the Griz offense in a dangerous position.

Ostmo caught a pass out the backfield to put the Grizzlies into the red zone, then scored his second touchdown of the day from a yard out to make it 21-10 Montana with 5:44 left in the third quarter.

Montana’s defense made another huge play on the next drive as Jace Lewis deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage. The ball floated in the air, and Joe Babos came down with an interception, giving the Griz the ball just outside the red zone.

Mitch Roberts evaded defenders on a crucial third-down conversion then caught another pass to bring Montana to the one-yard line. Marcus Knight found paydirt, scoring his 14th rushing touchdown of the season to give the Grizzlies an 18-point lead.

Idaho broke a run of 28 straight Montana points with a touchdown, but the Grizzlies answered right back. Montana went 75 yards in seven plays, scoring on Knight’s second of the day. He got his hat trick on Montana’s next drive, scoring from two yards out to make it 42-17 with under five minutes remaining.

The score brought Knight’s season total to 17 touchdowns (16 rushing, one receiving), which ties him with Lex Hilliard (2004) and Yohance Humphery (2001) for the fourth-most in a single season in program history.

Michael McGinnis. Photo Courtesy of Grizzly Athletics.

Montana’s running backs had five touchdowns on the day as the offensive line got the job done inside the red zone. A physical unit that has improved as the season has gone along, the O-line for the Grizzlies opened up plenty of holes for Ostmo and Knight.

“That was a challenge that got put on us from the very start of training camp,” center Cy Sirmon said. “The offensive line has to control the line of scrimmage, and we worked really hard to do that. I trust my guys with my life, and they bring it every single day. It’s awesome to be able to muscle them in like that.”

The Grizzly defense put the final nail in the coffin on Idaho’s next drive, intercepting Petrino for the second time. Nash Fouch hauled in a tipped pass for his second interception of the season. Montana’s offense then ran out the clock in the 42-17 win.

The eighth win of the year matches the most in a single season for the Grizzlies since an 8-5 campaign in 2015. It also sets Montana up for a difficult end to the season. The Grizzlies will return home next weekend to take on No. 3 Weber State in a top 10 matchup. After that, the Grizzlies close out the season on the road against Montana State.

The two games will both have massive implications on the landscape in the FCS, and in the Big Sky Championship race. The Wildcats are undefeated in conference play, and the Bobcats are 4-2 and currently in fourth place. One thing is certain, in year two under Hauck, the Grizzlies are excited to be playing big-time games in November.

“If you asked me where we are at now, compared to where I thought we would be at now when I first got here two springs ago, I’d say we’re probably a year ahead of where I thought we would be,” Hauck said. “That’s because we’ve got a bunch of great guys wearing our helmets and playing for us.”

Photo Courtesy of Grizzly Athletics.


SPLIT-THE-POT: Saturday’s winning Split-the-Pot number was #410,119 (Tan Ticket). The winning amount of $9,315.50 was claimed.