Griz keep playoff hopes alive with 51-48 OT win over Hornets
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. - Quarterback Jordan Johnson connected with wide receiver Ellis Henderson for a 25-yard touchdown pass in overtime and running back Jordan Canada rushed for a career-high four touchdowns, as the University of Montana Grizzlies eked out a 51-48 win over Sacramento State Saturday afternoon in Hornet Stadium.
The victory kept Montana's FCS playoff hopes alive, as they improved to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the Big Sky Conference. Sacramento State is now 4-5/3-2.
The win also gave Montana its 27th winning season in the past 28 years.
It was a back-and-forth contest which featured six ties, and the sixth deadlock came with 23 seconds to go on a 5-yard pass from the Hornets' elusive quarterback Garrett Safron, to tight end Cole Hikutini, which knotted the score at 45-all.
The Griz won the coin toss prior to the overtime, and elected to start on defense, and the "D" held the Hornets to a 25-yard field goal by Brad Cornish, giving the home team a 48-45 edge in the OT.
Then it was time for the Johnson-to-Henderson game winner, which came on the first play of overtime for the Grizzlies. Henderson faked a move inside, and then broke wide open to the right side of the end zone for the game-winner.
It was the second time in the last three weeks the Griz have played an overtime contest The last OT was on Oct. 19, and in that one, Johnson hit Henderson for a 23-yard TD on the second play of the overtime, and Montana defeated Cal Poly 21-14. Montana is now 8-3 in overtime games.
Canada's fourth scoring run, which tied the school record for touchdown runs in a game, was a 1-yarder on a 4th-and-goal, which gave Montana a 45-38 lead with 3:38 left to play. The Hornets put together a 10-play, 77-yard drive after Canada had given the Griz their second lead of the game, when Safron threw a 5-yard TD pass to Hikutini in the closing seconds of regulation, forcing the OT.
The teams combined for 56 second-half points, the Griz out-scoring the Hornets 21-7 in the third quarter, and then the Hornets doing the same thing to UM in the final stanza with a 21-7 scoring run. Safron's fourth scoring pass of the game tied the score up at 45-45 to force the overtime.
The teams traded points in the first half, which was tied three times (3-3, 10-10, 17-17), and Safron's first scoring pass to Hikutini , also a 5-yarder, dead-locked the game up at 17-17 with 18 second left until intermission, which is how the first half ended.
Canada, who now has 12 TD runs this season, rushed 17 times for 78 yards, and had touchdown runs of 1, 1, 33, and 1 yards. Johnson was 19-of-38-0 for a career-high 381 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Sophomore wide receiver Jamaal Jones had 7 catches for a career-best 143 yards and had a 54-yard touchdown catch - the first TD grab of his career. Henderson had 5 catches for a career-high 180 yards. Henderson also had 177 punt and kickoff return yards, and finished with 357 all-purpose yards.
Montana's defense forced four fumbles and recovered three of them, which led to 17 Griz points. Senior linebacker John Kanongata'a had a game-high 15 tackles and 1.5 TFLs. Junior free safety Matt Hermanson had 14 stops, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. Cornerback Nate Harris added a career-high 11 tackles, while linebacker Brock Coyle had 10 stops and 2 forced fumbles.
Safron had 505 total yards, with 412 passing and a game-high 93 rushing, and had two scoring runs. DeAndre Carter led Sac with 12 receptions for 165 yards, while Morris Norrise added 10 for 100. Linebacker Todd Davis led the Hornets with 11 tackles.
Montana plays at South Dakota for a non-league game next Saturday, Nov. 9. The Hornets are at Cal Poly next Saturday for a conference game.
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