Oct. 20, 2012
The University of Montana Grizzlies (3-5/1-4) couldn't hold onto a second-half comeback against Big Sky newcomer University of North Dakota (4-5/2-4). Montana fell to UND 40-34 in a nail-biter that came down to the final seconds at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D.
Even though the Grizzly defense held UND scoreless for most of the second half, UND outscored Montana 31-17 in the first half and found some momentum late in the fourth quarter to overcome the Grizzlies.
After a slow start, Montana gained some ground in the second half with a touchdown by Sam Gratton and a 44-yard field goal.With just over six minutes left in the third quarter, Grizzly defense got the momentum-changing play it needed. Junior cornerback Sean Murray picked off UND quarterback Braden Hanson to give Montana's offense a chance at the end zone. Sophomore quarterback Shay Smithwick-Hann hooked up with freshman wide receiver Ellis Henderson to complete a 27-yard touchdown pass. With Chris Lider's successful PAT, Montana took its first lead of the game 34-31.
UND managed to tie things up with two minutes remaining in the game when kicker Zeb Miller knocked in a 34-yard field goal. The Grizzlies couldn't turn their possessions into anything and handed the ball back to UND with 0:39 left in the game. Hanson found wide receiver Greg Hardin and completed a 32-yard touchdown pass putting UND up 40-34 and leaving Montana no time to recover.
UND's offense proved to be tough competition when it got on the board early in the first quarter. Hanson completed an impressive 81-yard pass to Hardin to set up a touchdown with 12:29 remaining in the quarter. The strong UND offense continued to beat up on Montana's defense and scored an additional three touchdowns and a field goal to give UND a substantial lead at the half.
Montana changed things up against UND, transitioning from a run-dominant game to one that aired out the ball a little more. Smithwick-Hann stepped in for starter Trent McKinney in the first quarter and gave Montana's receivers some action. However, the Grizzly offense couldn't turn many of its possessions into scoring drives, especially in the first half. Smithwick-Hann did connect with senior wide receiver Bryce Carver for a 58-yard touchdown to start off the second quarter.
Smithwick-Hann was 26-39-0 for 306 yards and three touchdowns. Henderson led Montana's receivers with 112 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore running back Jordan Canada racked up 91 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Murray and junior linebacker John Kanongata'a led the Grizzly defense with 11 tackles each. Kanongata'a also had two sacks.
UND quarterback Braden Hansen racked up 660 passing yards, a new Big Sky Conference record for a single game. He was picked off three times. Hardin had 12 receptions for a stunning, Big Sky-record 333 yards, and three touchdowns. UND racked up 704 total yards of offense, compared to UM's 521.
Montana hosts Idaho State next Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. UND takes on Montana State in Bozeman next weekend.
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