Oct. 31, 2009

Courtesy of Montana

The game was billed as contest of the year in the Big Sky Conference featuring two nationally ranked teams going into the game.

Weber State apparently didn’t get the message.

No. 2 Montana topped No. 14 Weber State 31-10 in a critical Big Sky contest. Montana held the Wildcat offense more than 140 yards under their total offense season average, and the Griz, led by Chase Reynolds’ 241 yards rushing, ran over the WSU defense.

Montana put together a balanced offensive game, gaining 288 yards on the ground and 218 passing, compared to Weber’s 56 and 243. Andrew Selle took most of Montana’s snaps at quarterback, throwing 13-of-26 for 214 yards and two touchdowns. Marc Mariani was his top target, catching four balls for 98 yards.

The Griz defense picked off WSU quarterback Cameron Higgins four times. Higgins was 16-34 passing. Trevyn Smith had 64 yards rushing for the Wildcats, and Tim Toone had five receptions for 73 yards.

Montana opened the with a touchdown drive on its first possession. Reynolds carried 6 times for 32 of the drive’s 75 yards before Dan Beaudin caught a 3-yard Selle pass for the score.

Montana’s defensive provided the contest’s second score. Higgins was pressured by Brandon Fisher on 3rd down, and Higgins’ desperation attempt to get rid of the ball instead went right to Montana defensive end Jace Palmer, who returned the interception 57 yards for Montana’s second touchdown. While a bad snap cost the Griz the extra point, Montana still led 13-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Montana gambled and lost in the second quarter when Reynolds was tripped up by Sam Fenn after a 2-yard run on fourth and 5. The Wildcats took over at the UM 48 and drove as far as the 11, Weber’s deepest drive of the half, before stalling out and settling for a Mike Snoy 36-yard field goal to put Weber State on the scoreboard, 13-3. The Wildcats wouldn’t equal that field position until the 4:08 mark of the third quarter.

The Griz put together an impressive drive at the end of the half, driving 90 yards in 13 plays. Unfortunately for UM, the drive began at the UM 9 and was stopped one yard short. Weber State held Montana out of the end zone four times from the Wildcat 1 to take the ball on downs and end the first half.

Montana received to begin the second half, and Reynolds led the Griz to a quick start. On a 6-play, 81-yard drive, Reynolds had 58 yards on 4 carries including a 2-yard touchdown run up the middle to stretch the Montana lead to 20-3.

Weber State’s next trip deep into Montana territory led as far as the UM 11, but like the last time the Wildcats got that close, the drive fell apart. A false start moved WSU back 5 yards, and on the next play Higgins tried to force a pass into Toone, but the pass was picked off by cornerback Trumaine Johnson at the UM 5, killing the WSU scoring threat. Montana drove 70 yards on the ensuing drive to set up a Brody McKnight 42-yard field goal, pushing the Montana lead to 23-3.

Bo Bolen had a 50-yard kickoff return to set the Wildcats up with great field position at the UM 45, but Higgins threw another pick to Johnson on the first play of the drive. Johnson returned the pick 11 yards to the UM 39.

After forcing a Montana punt, Weber State finally found the end zone with 11:16 remaining in the game when WSU pulled off the flea flicker. Bolen pitched back to Higgins, who hit Mike Phillips for a 59-yard TD strike. The trick play score made the score 23-10. It was Weber State's third and final trip into Montana's red zone.

Montana struck again late in the fourth, driving 79 yards in 8 plays, capped by a 14-yard Selle to Thomas Brooks-Fletcher touchdown pass. Montana completed the 2-point conversion, a Selle to Steve Pfahler pass, to give the Griz a three-touchdown lead, 31-10, with 4:52 to play.

Facing a must-score situation for Weber State, the Griz defense once again shut down the Wildcats, this time when Andrew Swink intercepted Higgins to stop a 40-yard drive, giving Montana the ball with 2:12 to go. A 45-yard reception by Mariani effectively sealed the game for the Griz.

Montana (8-0, 5-0 Big Sky) returns to the road next Saturday, traveling to Pocatello to take on Idaho State. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. inside Holt Arena.