POCATELLO, Idaho – Despite some fits and starts and a couple turnovers, No. 3-ranked Montana was in command when it mattered Saturday at Idaho State and registered a 28-20 victory at Holt Arena to improve its overall record to 5-0 and its Big Sky Conference mark to 2-0.
Quarterback Lucas Johnson accounted for two touchdowns, receiver Mitch Roberts tossed a TD of his own on a gadget play, and UM’s defense again made plays.
Marcus Knight had a 2-yard touchdown run and finished with 109 rushing yards, highlighted by a 48-yard scamper in the fourth quarter. Nick Ostmo added 84 rushing yards.
Montana linebacker Tyler Flink had an interception late in the second quarter to help set up a 14-6 lead. The Grizzlies did lose starting safety TraJon Cotton to a targeting call in the first quarter, but UM’s deep defense held firm until Idaho State put together some plays late.
The Bengals scored 14 points in the final 5:01 to make it a one-possession game. The Grizzlies landed on a pooch kick with 55 seconds left and were able to kneel on the ball.
Turning point: With Montana leading 14-6 at the 2:14 mark of the second quarter, it appeared Griz punt returner Keelan White muffed a punt that was recovered by Idaho State. The officials, though, said White did not touch the ball, and that call was upheld after review.
The Grizzlies then marched 86 yards on 10 plays, a drive that ended when Johnson found White with a 24-yard touchdown pass and a 21-6 lead.
Stat of the game: Despite Idaho State’s ability to dial up a few big plays, Montana’s defense, which has been tough all year, allowed 381 total yards and didn’t surrender a touchdown until the 5:01 mark of the fourth quarter, a 26-yard throw from Idaho State QB Sagan Gronauer to receiver Christian Fredrickson.
Grizzly game balls: WR Mitch Roberts (offense). Roberts finished with four receptions for 41 yards and was targeted six times. He even threw for a touchdown on a double-pass play in the third quarter, hitting Cole Grossman with a pretty 28-yard throw in the back of the end zone as the Griz took a 28-6 lead.
CB Justin Ford (defense). Ford, enhancing his reputation as a shutdown corner, was matched up with big-play ISU wideout Xavier Guillory for much of the day. Ford helped keep Guillory at bay for the most part, and the 6-foot-2 pass-catcher was unable to find the end zone.
P Patrick Rohrbach (special teams). Rohrbach has established himself as one of the top punters in the Big Sky, and he booted four balls Saturday for an average of 52.8 yards. Rohrbach pinned ISU on its own 2-yard line in the first quarter.
Up next: The Grizzlies (5-0, 2-0 Big Sky) are idle next week but return home to play conference foe Idaho on Oct. 15 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.