Montana improves to 3-0 with decisive 47-14 victory over OPSU

Kicker Ben Worst (Photo by Jake England)

Kicker Ben Worst (Photo by Jake England)

Sept. 21, 2013

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The 9th/11th-ranked University of Montana Grizzlies scored on six of their first seven possessions and true freshman halfback John Nguyen rushed for 144 yards, as UM cruised to a 47-14 victory over the out-manned Oklahoma Panhandle State Aggies in a non-league game Saturday afternoon.

A boisterous (first half anyway) Washington-Grizzly Stadium crowd of 25,814 was on hand - the eighth largest in WGS history (196 games).

A lot of the starters for the Grizzlies played in just a handful of series in the contest, and the outcome was pretty much decided in the first quarter.

The game started with a two-play, 71-yard drive, with quarterback Jordan Johnson connecting with wide receiver Ellis Henderson for a 17-yard touchdown, as UM went up 7-0 in the first 41 seconds of action. Henderson's score was set up by a 54-yard run on an end-around play by wide-out Chase Naccarato.

The Aggies (1-3) held the Griz on their next series, but Montana then scored on its next five possessions, and when quarterback Shay Smithwick-Hann threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Taylor Walcott, who made a difficult, one-handed grab, and UM took a commanding 31-0 lead with 1:43 to go in the first quarter.

Montana head coach Mick Delaney brought in his back-ups early, and all 63 players who suited up and were able to play saw action. played in the game. The Griz tacked on another TD early in the second quarter on a 5-yard run by halfback Joey Counts to take a 38-0 lead with 14:02 left until halftime.

OPSU scored two unanswered touchdowns against UM's number two defense, making the score 38-14 at intermission. The Aggies' scores came on a 5-yard scoring throw from quarterback Caleb Holbrook to Tim Hollingshed, and a 1-yard run by 6-1, 258-pound sophomore tight end Kameron Young.

The Grizzlies shut out the Aggies, a Division II independent with an enrollment of 1,400 in the second half. OPSU was limited to 91 total yards and four first downs in the final 30 minutes of play.

Montana's nine second half total points all came in the third quarter, and all came via field goals, as Ben Worst nailed a pair of 41-yarders, and redshirt frosh Harrison Greenbergmade a 21-yarder.

One of the highlights of the game was provided by Worst, a true freshman from Twin Falls, Idaho, who connected on a 50-yard field goal in the opening quarter. Worst, whose 50-yarder tied him for the sixth longest field goal in school history, made all three of his field goal attempts.

Johnson played in just four series and all were in the first quarter, was 3-of-6 passing for 59 yards and a touchdown. Smithwick-Hann was 3-of-9-0 for 29 yards and two TDs, while redshirt freshman QB Brady Gustafsonwent 2-of-4-0 for 40 yards. Sophomore QB Trent McKinney did not play due to illness.

UM had eight different players catch passes, and Henderson, Walcott, and true freshman tight end Jordan Harper had one scoring reception each. True freshman Nguyenhad 22 carries for his hard-earned 144 yards.

Counts and junior halfback Travon Van each rushed for a touchdown. UM's top two rushers, Jordan Canada and Travon Vancombined for just eight carries and 17 yards. Montana rushed 45 times for 262 yards and two scores. The three Griz quarterbacks' passing totals were 8-of-19-0 for 128 yards and three touchdowns.

Sophomore linebacker Addison Owen had five tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery. Junior defensive end Zack Wagenmannhad 2.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble in limited action.

Holbrook was 8-of-18-1 passing for 50 yards and the one TD pass. Sophomore running back Chris McClendon led OPSU with 57 yards rushing on 14 totes. Aggie linebacker Tanner Hallford had a game-high 9 tackles.

The Grizzlies open their Big Sky Conference season next Saturday at 25th-ranked Northern Arizona in a 7:00 p.m. (Mtn.) game in Flagstaff.

Note: The winning Split the Pot number at Saturday's game was 045440. The winner, from Turah, Mont., claimed the pot of $9,333.



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