Dec. 5, 2009

Sidebar: A Day Of Domination

Glenn R. Junkert
Special to

MISSOULA, Mont.—Host Montana made Stephen F. Austin pay dearly for first-half turnovers as it rolled to a 51-0 Division I Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal victory on Saturday.

The Grizzlies converted seven Lumberjack turnovers on the way to a 38-0 halftime lead. With the win, top-seed Montana (13-0) advanced to a semifinal date next weekend with either Appalachian State or Richmond.

Lumberjack quarterback Jeremy Moses threw three first-half interceptions while Stephen F. Austin coughed the ball up four times—once by Moses when he was flushed from the pocket, once on a punt return by Aaron Rhea, once on a fumble by Romont Hampton at the Montana 1-yard line after a completion, and once on run around right end by Vincent Purvis.

The Grizzlies proceeded to score 34 points directly from Lumberjacks’ mistakes.

“I mean, obviously the turnovers mattered,” Moses said.  “We’re not going to win many ball games (that way) and we got 10 of them today.”

Montana quarterback Andrew Selle completed 13-of-23 passes for 210 yards and a pair of first-half touchdowns, his first on a 7-yard quarterback draw that gave the Grizzlies a 10-0 lead with 5 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Ironically, the Lumberjacks showed early signs of moving the ball effectively and picked up 149 yards in the first quarter alone. But every time Stephen F. Austin got near the red zone, the flow of the game changed dramatically.

The Lumberjacks’ first drive was halted at the Montana 27-yard line when lineman Austin Mullins caught an interception. The Grizzlies then marched downfield and broke the scoreless tie with a 34-yard Brody McKnight field goal.

An exchange of punts proved costly once again to the Lumberjacks when Sean Wren’s punt was bobbled by Stephen F. Austin kickoff return man Rhea and recovered by Montana’s Shann Shillinger at the Lumberjack 22-yard line. Five plays later, Grizzlies’ running back Chase Reynolds bulled in from the three for a 10-0 lead.

That critical turnover seemed to open the floodgates and Montana scored on its next two possessions, including Selle’s quarterback draw and a three-play Montana score after Moses’ fumble, when Selle connected with Marc Mariani from 14 yards out.

Montana opened the third quarter with a nine-play, 63-yard scoring drive, capped by a nine-yard plunge up the middle by running back Chase Reynolds.

Selle finished with 281 total yards on 19-of-30 completions and three touchdowns without an interception or a sack. Mariani’s 111 yards and one touchdown made him Montana’s career leader with 2,801 receiving.

Montana racked up 474 total yards on offense compared to Stephen F. Austin’s 280. The Grizzlies had 22 first downs to the Lumberjacks’ 12, and controlled the ball for nearly 37 minutes of the game.

Montana’s 51-point shutout, combined with its come-from-behind win last week, gave the Grizzlies 91 unanswered points in FCS post-season play.