Clay Pierson makes a game-tying TD grab
Oct. 19, 2013
The University of Montana Grizzlies blocked a game-clinching field goal late in the contest and then put together a scoring drive in the last two minutes, to register an emotional 21-14 Big Sky Conference overtime victory over the Cal Poly Mustangs Saturday afternoon in UM's Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Montana improves to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in league, while the Mustangs are now 3-4 and 2-1. The Grizzlies' last overtime game was a decade ago, a 43-40 double OT setback at home to Western Illinois in a first-round FCS playoff game.
Things looked bleak for the Griz and the 25,913 (the seventh largest in school history) mostly partisan fans in WGS, as Mustang place-kicker Bobby Zalud lined up to attempt a 26-yard field goal with 2:17 left to play. However, UM senior linebacker Jordan Tripp got his hand on the ball, and his block gave Montana possession on its own 12-yard line.
After Tripp's crucial blocked three-pointer the Grizzlies, led by junior quarterback Jordan Johnson, marched 88 yards on 15 plays in 2:05 to score the game-tying touchdown. The game-tying play came on a Johnson pass to senior tight end Clay Pierson on a 4th-and-goal from two yards out. Freshman kicker Ben Worst then kicked the PAT, and the game was dead-locked 14-14 with 12 seconds to go in regulation.
Montana got the ball first in the overtime, and on the second play in OT, Johnson completed a pass to junior wide receiver Ellis Henderson around Cal Poly's 4-yard line, and Henderson spun away from a would-be tackler and dove into the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown and what proved to be the winning score.
Cal Poly sophomore quarterback Dano Graves' long pass on the Mustangs' third play in the overtime was picked off at the two by senior linebacker Brock Coyle, and the Grizzlies had their improbably comeback victory.
Montana jumped to an early 7-0 lead on a 5-yard run by junior halfback Jordan Canada with 5:38 left in the first quarter. UM's first score was set up on a blocked punt by safety Herbert Gamboa, which was recovered John Nguyen on Cal Poly's 29-yard line. Nine plays later Canada, who picked up a critical first down on a 4th-and-1 from CP's 7-yard line, scored from five yards out to give the Griz the early lead.
The Mustangs tied the game at 7-7 on a 6-yard run by senior fullback Akaninyene Umoh with 1:59 left in the first quarter. Umoh scored Cal Poly's go-ahead (14-7) touchdown with 5:57 left until halftime on a 4-yard run.
Neither team scored again after Umoh's back-to-back touchdown runs until the Johnson-to-Pierson 2-yard scoring hook-up which tied the game. That game-tying drive came on 15 plays for 88 yards, took 2:05 on the clock.
Montana's offense wasted no time on the OT, scoring on its second play - the Johnson-to-Henderson 23-yard scoring strike.
The Grizzlies had many scoring opportunities, but just could not get the ball in the end zone, which ended up taking another 50 minutes after their first-quarter TD.
The first of UM's three big scoring chances came on a drive that started on Cal Poly's 14 in the third quarter and ended on a 4-yard loss on a rush by Canada. The next one began at CP's 8-yard line and ended in a fumble by Johnson which was recovered in the end zone; and on the other opportunity, UM started with the ball on the Mustangs' 35 after a fumble recovery by Tripp, but that drive ended with an incomplete pass on 4th-and-3 pass, and both of those final two chances were in the fourth quarter.
It was a tale of two halves for the Griz, who were out-matched 247 to 78 total yards in the opening 30 minutes, and managed just five first downs, compared to Cal Poly's 14. Cal Poly also had a big advantage in time of possession in the first two quarters (18:33 to 11:27).
But, Montana's defense, led by safety Matt Hermanson and senior linebackers J.P. Kanongata'a, Coyle, and Tripp, made key stops when it had to in the second half. Cal Poly was held to nine first downs and 156 total yards in the last two quarters.
Hermanson had a game and career-high 18 tackles. Kanonagta'a had 16 tackles and a forced fumble, while Coyle had 12 stops, 2.0 TFLs, and the game-ending pick
Tripp had 12 stops, a fumble recovery, and the key blocked field goal. Tripp's fumble recovery was the ninth of his career, tying him for the school record with former linebacker Mike Rankin, who had nine from 1986-89.
Johnson was 22-of-39-1 for 242 yards and the game-tying and game-winning TD throws. He had thrown 155 passes in a row until getting picked off late in the second quarter.
Canada had 23 carries for 56 yards and a TD. Junior halfback Travon Van had one tote for 5 yards and left the game early due to an injury.
Cam Warren led the Griz with 6 catches for 47 yards, Canada had 5 for 38, Pierson had 4 for 25, and Jamaal Jones had 3 grabs for a game-high 96 yards. All four of Pierson's receptions were on the game-tying drive, including his 2-yard TD grab.
Cal Poly, which rushed 60 times for 308 yards in its triple option attack, was led by halfback Kristaan Ivory with 22 carries for 121 yards, while Graves had 14 rushes for 91 yards.
The Grizzlies host 4th-ranked Eastern Washington next Saturday, Oct. 26. The Mustang host 19th-ranked Northern Arizona next Saturday.
Note: The winning Split the Pot number at Saturday's game was 134980. The winner, from Missoula, claimed a pot of $10,016.
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