Oct. 10, 2009

Courtesy of Montana

Montana again demonstrated its come-from-behind ability, recovering from a 10-0 hole to top 15th-ranked Cal Poly 35-23. The homecoming crowd of 25,694 endured a game-time temp of 25 degrees to see a high-scoring game that produced 7 turnovers.

Montana had 453 total yards of offense, compared to 317 for the Mustangs. The Griz picked up 278 yards in the air, led by Marc Mariani's 200 yards and two TDs. Chase Reynolds had 109 rushing yards, 44 receiving yards, and 3 touchdowns.

Austin Mullins paced the UM defense with 10 tackles, while Brandon Fisher and Jordan Tripp had fumble recoveries. Poly had fumble recoveries from James Chen, Jaymes Thierry, and Ryan Taylor and interceptions by Asa Jackson and Scottie Cordier. Marty Mohamed had 10 tackles.

Cal Poly used two big pass plays to set up the first score of the game. The Griz defense had Poly pinned deep in their own territory, when quarterback Tony Smith found receiver David Mahr open in the middle of the field for a 29-yard gain to the Mustang 41. Four plays later, Smith lofted a pass to receiver Eric Gardley, who came back to make a play to beat UM cornerback Keith Thompson on the underthrown ball. That 29-yard gain set up first and goal at the UM 5. Cal Poly ran it home from there. Smith dove in on third down from 1 yard out to finish off the 10-play touchdown drive, giving the Mustangs an early 7-0 lead.

Montana returned to its quarterback rotation when Justin Roper stepped in for starter Andrew Selle in the last Griz possession of the 1st quarter. Roper's first completion in three weeks turned nasty for the Griz, when  tight end Steve Pfahler fumbled at the UM 49 after a 7-yard gain where James Chen recovered for the Mustangs. The turnover led to a Chris Pinto 32-yard field goal, extending the lead to 10-0.

Roper went 5-10 for 123 yards, a touchdown and two picks, while Selle had 155 yards on 9-17 passing and three touchdowns. Selle also ran for 37 yards on 4 carries.

Mike Sylvestre took the ensuing short kickoff but fumbled, giving the Mustangs the ball at the Griz 35. Poly couldn't capitalize on the field position and were forced to punt, giving Montana the ball at their own 16-yard line.

Three plays later, the Griz finally broke onto the scoreboard with 8:15 remaining in the 2nd quarter when Roper hit receiver Marc Mariani for an 84-yard TD completion, narrowing it to a 10-7 game.

The Mustangs couldn't get anything going on their next possession, and following the Poly punt Montana picked up a first down before a Justin Roper pass was intercepted by Scottie Cordier at the Poly 12. The pass was apparently a product of confusion on the route, because no Griz receiver was in the area and Cordier played the ball like a centerfielder. Cordier returned the pick 20 yards before a big hit by Tyler Palmer dropped him at the 32.

The Griz defense again held up in the quick-change situation, forcing a 3-and-out. On the punt, the turnover bug bit Montana again; this time in the form of a fumble by Mariani. Ryan Taylor recovered at the UM 20 to give the Mustangs the ball in the red zone. The Mustangs wouldn't be denied this time, putting together a 6-play scoring drive punctuated by Jordan Yocum's 1-yard TD rush with just 1:08 to go in the half.

Jake West's kickoff was another short one, a fair catch at the UM 39. Poly was offside on the play, setting the Griz up at their own 44. From there, Selle went 3-of-4 passing, including the 36-yard catch-and-run by Chase Reynolds for the touchdown, shrinking the halftime margin to 17-14.

The second half opened with a pair of punts, and Montana was moving the ball in Cal Poly territory when Roper threw another pick, this one to Asa Jackson. Again the Mustangs couldn't take advantage of the Grizzly gift, going 3-and-out and giving the Griz the ball at their 31. Montana proceeded to string together a 15-play touchdown drive taking up 5:37 and stretching into the 4th quarter, capped by a 3-yard Reynolds run.

Montana's defense once again held up the Mustang option attack, stopping the Poly drive at the UM 41. Montana took over at the 17 and scored four plays later, when Mariani came back for a badly underthrown ball from Selle en-route to a 68-yard touchdown, giving the Griz an 11-point lead with 9:03 left.

The Mustangs struck back quickly when Harlan Prather hit Mike Anderson in stride. Anderson avoided a diving Keith Thompson and took the ball 59 yards for the touchdown. The point-after was taken off the board by a holding penalty, and Cal Poly's 13-yard 2-point attempt ended meekly in an incomplete pass. The Griz lead was 28-23 with 8:23 to go.

The story of the next Griz drive was Andrew Selle. The junior picked up two 3rd-down conversions on scampers of 7 and 26 yards. These drive-preserving plays led to another Reynolds touchdown, an 8-yard pass from Selle.

Trailing 23-35 with 3:18 remaining, the Mustangs couldn't put anything together and turned the ball over on downs. Montana ran it out from there to secure the win.

The Grizzlies (5-0, 2-0 Big Sky) stay home next week for a Big Sky matchup against the Eastern Washington Eagles. Kickoff is 1 p.m. from Washington-Grizzly Stadium.