For the second straight week Montana allowed its opponent to score first, but just like last week’s top 10 win over Sacramento State that was about all the Grizzlies gave up in Portland. Montana dominated Portland State 34-10 for its sixth straight win.

It moves Montana to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in conference play. It also makes next week’s Brawl of the Wild the de facto Big Sky Championship game as Montana State enters with a matching record. Idaho lost to Weber State earlier on Saturday, leaving the two rivals alone together at the top.

After the Vikings started the game with a field goal on the opening drive, Montana would go on to score 34 unanswered points with a big first half offensively. The Grizzlies outgained the Vikings 489-255 in the game.

Photo courtesy of Grizzly Athletics

It’s the second-most yards in a game this season for Montana and brings them over 1,000 total yards in the last two games, both dominant wins. The last three games have all been blowout victories as Montana have outgained their previous three opponents by 874 total yards (291.3 per game).

“It’s always a scary week with the rivalry coming next and lots of stuff that’s not just the game that people our talking about,” head coach Bobby Hauck said. “Our guys are pretty mature but they hear all of it and you worry about the focus and you worry about the performance. Our guys came out and performed so I was really pleased for them.”

The balance that they’ve displayed down the stretch of the season continued on Saturday. The Grizzlies had 258 yards through the air and 231 on the ground with good performances from countless individuals.

Clifton McDowell ran for three touchdowns and had 199 total yards with a 64 percent completion rate, Keali’I Ah Yat threw for 131 yards, Eli Gillman nearly hit the century mark for the third straight game, and a quartet of receivers all finished with at least 40 yards.

“We made some plays. We were running it successfully and when things broke down Clifton made some plays with his feet,” Hauck said. “When he threw it, we caught it. It was far from perfect but (Portland State) do a good job, (Coach Barnum) does a great job. They are always prepared and their X’s and O’s our good so they make you earn it and our guys went out and earned it to take the win.”

The defense had 21 different players record a tackle. Anaconda native Braxton Hill once again led Montana with seven tackles. Ryan Tirrell had five and Riley Wilson had four tackles with two sacks. Outside of one big 64-yard touchdown pass, the Grizzly defense didn’t allow the Vikings much on the offensive side.

One of the best rushing attacks in the country was held under 100 yards as the Grizzlies outgained the Vikings on the ground by 138 yards.

“With the style they want to play right now if we can outgain them like that in the run game then we are going to beat them barring some unforeseen disaster,” Hauck said. “It was good.”

The Vikings are one of the best third-down offenses in the country, but Montana held them to just four third down conversions. The Griz forced six punts on eight Vikings drives as possessions were few and far between with long drives on both sides.

The Grizzlies scored on six of their first seven drives and averaged 51 yards per possession. It led to a nearly 10-minute advantage in time of possession despite running often and trying to shorten the game. In nearly every category, Montana looked the superior team on Saturday night in Portland.

“It was a very mature effort by our guys. It’s very much a trap game and the maturity showed in this game and the week’s prep. I felt good about it just because of the preparation and the maturity our guys showed. We talked about it in the locker room, the way we win is when we’re focused on our assignment and executing the play calls and doing our part.”

The Vikings were able to drive the field and score on a field goal on the first possession of the game. They attempted a trick play on third and short with a three-person line, but Montana read it well and made a tackle to force the Vikings into a 37-yard field goal.

Montana quickly made it into Viking territory on the ensuing drive, thanks largely to a 20-yard first down completion from McDowell to Sawyer Racanelli. The Grizzlies got another first down conversion on a jet sweep to Xavier Harris, and kept the chains moving with a quarterback sneak from McDowell on their third conversion on third down of the drive.

The Grizzlies nearly found the end zone on a long pass from McDowell to Gillman that was initially ruled a touchdown, but video review overturned it to put Montana down a few inches short of the goal line. It didn’t delay the score long. McDowell kept it on his second QB keeper of the drive and found the end zone to put Montana ahead 7-3.

It’s the fourth rushing touchdown of the season for McDowell and first since the win on the road against Idaho in early October.

The Grizzly defense forced a three-and-out on the following drive and Portland State shanked a punt to give the ball back to Montana with just 38 yards to go to get back in the end zone.

Montana’s drive appeared to stall after an incompletion on third down set them up with fourth-and-long. In no man’s land, Hauck elected to go for it on fourth down. McDowell dropped back to pass but couldn’t find an option, instead opting to scramble out of the pocket. He broke a tackle and picked up the first down to keep Montana’s drive alive.

The Grizzlies made it inside the 10, but a pair of penalties made it 1st-and-goal from the 19-yard line. McDowell found White for a 15-yard gain to set up Ostmo for a touchdown from four-yards out. It was the sixth touchdown of the season for the Portland native.

Montana forced another Viking three-and-out on the opening drive of the second quarter.

McDowell had another big-time run, scrambling for an 11-yard gain on third-and-10 to move the chains again. It was the fourth third down conversion in the first five attempts for Montana, and the Griz were able to get the fourth down pickup the only time they were stopped short.

The quarterback continued to just pound away at the Viking defense, and scored his second touchdown of the day with a 20-yard quarterback draw to cap the drive. He broke three tackles on the way to the end zone, shaking off would-be Viking tacklers to bring his rushing total to 64 yards and two scores early in the second quarter.

The Vikings punted for the third time in four possessions to give the ball back to the Grizzlies on their own five with just over two minutes remaining in the half, and Keali’I Ah Yat entered for his first action. He connected with Ostmo for a 39-yard gain to give Montana some room to operate.

Once there, he fired a laser over the middle to Keelan White for a 30-yard gain to get the Grizzlies into Viking territory yet again. Ostmo trucked his way for 10 yards to set Montana up with first-and-goal, and Ah Yat appeared to find Bergen for a touchdown but a flag brought the play back.

The two-minute offense wasn’t able to find the end zone, but the Grizzlies kicked a 26-yard field goal on the final play of the half to head into the locker room ahead 24-3. It was the first made field goal of the year for Nico Ramos.

The Grizzlies outgained the Vikings 293-105 in the opening half hour with a balanced attack, passing for 158 and running for another 135. Montana had 15 first downs compared to just four for Portland State, and they had run nearly double the amount of plays at 41-22.

The second half started much the same way the entire first half went. McDowell found Bergen on a 25-yard gain and then Gillman carried it 24 yards to set Montana up just outside the red zone.

A second Grizzly touchdown was wiped off the board because of penalty as a holding brought back a 30-yard score from McDowell to White. Another penalty would sink the Montana drive and force Travis Benham to punt for the first time on the day.

The Grizzly defense forced a punt right back as they continued to hold one of the best third-down offenses in the country in check. McDowell found Bergen for a 26-yard gain that had an extra 15 yards tacked on by a late hit from the Vikings.

Then Harris gained 20 yards on an end around to set Montana up in the red zone for the fifth time on the day. A pass interference set Montana up from the eight, and McDowell picked up his hat trick with a read-option run to make it 31-3 with 8:29 to play in the third quarter.

An error by the Viking kick return team then forced Portland State to start the next drive from their own one-yard line. They would escape their own end zone and find Montana’s for the first time on the night with a 64-yard score over the middle of the field to cut the lead to 31-10.

Ah Yat and Gillman made several big plays on Montana’s next drive to quiet any momentum that the big play may have generated for Portland State. Gillman carried it eight times for 35 yards on the drive to set up Nico Ramos for a 36-yard field goal.

Riley Wilson picked up the first sack of the game for Montana and bring his season total to 7.5 sacks. It forced another Viking punt, the fifth of the night for the hosts.

Montana converted a fourth down with Gillman carrying for five yards and a first down, but eventually had to punt.

The defense didn’t allow the Vikings any ground, as Garrett Hustedt delivered a massive hit to Chachere that forced a fumble in the back field on the sack. Portland State recovered, but Wilson brought Chachere down on the very next play for his second sack of the game to give the ball back to the Grizzly offense.

The teams would both run the ball and the clock down the stretch as Montana would pick up the 34-10 win. Montana were able to get plenty of players in the game as Sam Vidlak closed it out under center. The Griz also had nine different ball carriers and eight different players catch a pass to go along with rotations on the offensive line and defensive positions.

“I was really pleased to play almost everybody that was on the trip,” Hauck said. “We played all three quarterback and every offensive lineman that we had and most of the defensive players. These guys work so dang hard around the calendar that it’s great when you can get a chance to get them in the game.”

In the ultimate trap game, Montana never let the result feel in doubt. They controlled it all the way behind the big offensive first half, relieving any pressure that may have come with a close game down the stretch on the road.

The Grizzlies are now 12-0 in the game before the Brawl of the Wild under head coach Bobby Hauck.

“It excites me to hear that. Some of them have been by the skin of our teeth over the years but I’m always concerned about this particular week on our schedule,” Hauck said. “I like our team, I like the mettle of this group, we’ll have a good week of prep and hopefully we can get after it.”

The stakes have never been larger for a Brawl of the Wild game as it should be the first-ever top five matchup between the two schools. Idaho’s loss increases the drama, as the winner of the rivalry game will not only take home the Great Divide Trophy but also the outright Big Sky Championship.

“It shapes up to be a heck of a big game. It’s probably one of the things I’m going to caution our guys about is not to worry about any of that. We’ve just got to worry about winning this game and doing our thing. It’s about us versus them, and we aren’t going to worry about anything other than that.”