Sept. 29, 2012
On the fiery red Roos Field nicknamed "The Inferno," the 21st-ranked Griz football team fell to the seventh-ranked Eastern Washington Eagles 32-26 Saturday evening in Cheney, Wash.
In the heartbreaking loss for the Grizzlies, the Eagles stunned Montana with two late-game scores to overcome the Grizzlies without giving them time to recover.
After losing last week to Northern Arizona, Montana now falls to 0-2 in Big Sky Conference play while Eastern Washington ups their record to 2-0.
Eastern Washington started off the first quarter with a touchdown. The Eagles pushed down the field after Grizzly redshirt freshman kicker Chris Lider's 70-yard game-opening kickoff, which started Eastern Washington at their own 25-yard line. With 10:47 left to in the first quarter, running back Demitrius Bronson rushed five yards into the end zone to give the Eagles an early lead. With the good PAT, the Eagles challenged Montana 7-0.
Montana quickly answered with a touchdown of their own. Senior halfback Peter Nguyen carried the ball 37 yards to get the Grizzlies on the board 6-7 with 4:40 left to go in the first quarter. Lider knocked in the PAT to tie up the game.
Throughout the first half, the Eagles and the Grizzlies battled to stay within arm's reach of each other. At the beginning of the second quarter, wide receiver Brandon Kaufman caught a 36-yard pass from freshman quarterback Vernon Adams to once again gain a lead over Montana.
With 7:11 left to go in the first half, Lider shortened the Eagles' 14-7 lead by putting a 27-yard field goal through the posts. Roughly six minutes later, Eastern Washington earned a field goal of their own when kicker Kevin Miller successfully completed a 19-yard kick to close out the first half. As the teams headed to their respective locker rooms, the Eagles had a firm grip on the game leading 17-10.
Montana ran onto Eastern Washington's red field looking to start an inferno of their own to start off the second half. Grizzly defense successfully held the Eagles to a gain of two yards on their first possession in the top of the third quarter. Senior defensive end Josh Harris sacked Adams for a loss of two yards, forcing the Eagles to punt the ball away.
The Grizzlies gained possession of the ball at their 27-yard line. Redshirt freshman quarterback Trent McKinney teamed up with redshirt sophomore running back Jordan Canada and Nguyen to drive the ball down the field to collect another touchdown for the Griz with about five minutes left to go in the third quarter. Montana didn't quite tie up the game. Lider botched the PAT, leaving the Griz trailing Eastern Washington 16-17.
Montana defense did their job again. Freshman defensive tackle Caleb Kidder sacked Adams, forcing another punt from Miller. This time Miller fumbled the ball, and Montana recovered it at the Eagles' 8-yard line. Grizzly offense took advantage of the excellent field position and punched in a quick touchdown after Nguyen rushed for six yards and then Canada took the ball the rest of the way into the end zone. Lider successfully completed the PAT. The Grizzlies now claimed the lead again with a score of 23-17 with 2:47 left to go in the third quarter.
Things were looking good for the Grizzlies as the clock started in the fourth quarter. Montana lengthened their lead with a successful 25-yard field goal. Griz defense forced another fumble, but couldn't use the turnover to create a scoring drive. Montana handed the ball back to Eastern Washington with a 38-yard punt by redshirt freshman Stephen Shaw. And, with 5:46 left to go in the game, that's where it all goes downhill for the Grizzlies.
With only minutes left to go in the game, the Eagles caught fire. Adams completed pass after pass to Eagles' receivers to keep the ball moving down the field. Grizzly defense couldn't cut the momentum of Eastern Washington's offense. Adams nailed a 30-yard pass to Kaufman to drive in a touchdown. The Eagles closed in on Montana's lead 26-24.
Then bad turned to worse for Montana. Eastern Washington still had fight left in them with only a little more than two minutes left in the game. The Eagles recovered their own onside kick and drove in another touchdown after wide receiver Ashton Clark caught a pass from Adams. To take a little insurance on their new lead, the Eagles then completed a success two-point conversion to put them ahead 32-36.
Montana simply didn't have enough time left in the game to recover from the stunning succession of touchdowns that Eastern Washington just hit them with. The Grizzlies regained possession with 53 seconds left to go. McKinney tried to move the ball down the field, but Montana ended the game at the 29-yard line.
Once again, Montana battled turnovers. The Grizzlies fumbled the ball three times and lost the ball three times. The Eagles also fumbled the ball three times but only lost possession once. Montana defense forced on interception.
Canada led Grizzlies' offense with 168 rushing yards followed by Nguyen with 123 yards. Montana's dominant halfback senior Dan Moore left the game early with an ankle injury. McKinney rushed 14 times for 25 yards and completed 13 passes for 117 yards.
Montana's defense was led by Josh Harris and Kidder, who each had one sack.
Adams went 25-for-41-1 for 353 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the Eagles in rushing yards with 60 yards. Kaufman had eight receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
The Grizzlies are back on the road as they take on Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo., Oct. 6. Eastern Washington faces North Dakota at home next Saturday.
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