Ground game leads Montana past Montana State 36-10BOZEMAN, Mont. — Peter Nguyen and Dan Moore each ran for more than 100 yards and a touchdown, and Jordan Johnson threw two scoring passes as Montana dominated Montana State for a 36-10 victory Saturday that left the rivals sharing the Big Sky Conference championship.
BOZEMAN, Mont. — Montana has been uncharacteristically looking up at Montana State in the Big Sky Conference standings for more than a year. On Saturday, the perennial powerhouse Grizzlies took it upon themselves to restore order.
Peter Nguyen and Dan Moore each ran for more than 100 yards and a touchdown, and Jordan Johnson threw for two scores as Montana earned a share of the Big Sky title with a thorough 36-10 pasting of Montana State in front of a Bobcat Stadium-record crowd of 20,247.
With its seventh consecutive victory, No. 7 Montana (9-2, 7-1) earned the league’s automatic berth in the FCS playoffs a year after missing postseason play for the first time in 18 seasons. The Bobcats (9-2, 7-1) saw their nine-game winning streak end but also are assured of postseason play.
“You look at all the factors of the game — the No. 1 team in the country, at their house, the ‘Cat-Griz game — satisfying isn’t even the word for it,” Montana linebacker Caleb McSurdy said. “It was awesome.”
Nguyen ran for 123 yards, including a 21-yard dash for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that marked his first rushing score of the season. Moore added 116 yards and a 37-yard TD with 5:37 to play in the third quarter, giving Montana a 29-7 lead.
The Grizzlies ran for 309 yards against the Big Sky’s top rushing defense and compiled 473 yards of total offense, the most allowed by Montana State all season. Defensively, Montana limited the league’s top offense to season lows in scoring, total offense (250) and rushing yards (79) and became the first FCS team to hold the Bobcats to less than 400 yards of offense.
“It looked like I was watching my team in reverse,” Montana State coach Rob Ash said. “In the end it came down to blocking and kicking and making plays, and Montana did a better job of it.”
After falling behind 12-0 in a defensive first half, the Bobcats gave their fans a flicker of hope on their first possession of the third quarter when DeNarius McGhee found Elvis Akpla for a 7-yard touchdown pass. But Montana responded 18 seconds later as Johnson found Jabin Sambrano for a 79-yard scoring strike to make it 19-7 with 13:49 remaining.
“That was big,” said Johnson, who was 15 for 31 for 164 yards passing and added 27 rushing yards. “They had a little momentum.”
A 33-yard field goal by Brody McKnight and Moore’s scoring run gave the Grizzlies a 29-7 lead. Jason Cunningham brought Montana State within 29-10 with a 38-yard field goal, but Nguyen sealed the verdict with his touchdown run with 9:28 to play.
McGhee was 16 for 33 for 171 yards passing but was pressured repeatedly and sacked three times. Cody Kirk, who came into the game second in the Big Sky in rushing at 118.8 yards per game, was limited to 45.
“We won’t hang our heads too low,” McGhee said. “This was an extremely disappointing game, but we’ll go to work on Monday. This will be extremely motivating for us.”
Both Montana and Montana State will learn their postseason fates today.
Montana 0 12 17 7 — 36
Montana St. 0 0 7 3 — 10
Mont—FG McKnight 34, 9:10.
Mont—Middleton 2 pass from J.Johnson (McKnight kick), 2:15.
MtSt—Akpla 7 pass from McGhee (Cunningham kick), 14:07.
Mont—Sambrano 79 pass from J.Johnson (McKnight kick), 13:49.
Mont—FG McKnight 33, 10:05.
Mont—Moore 37 run (McKnight kick), 5:37.
MtSt—FG Cunningham 38, 14:16.
Mont—Nguyen 21 run (McKnight kick), 9:28.
TEAM STATISTICS Mont MtSt
First downs 24 13
Rushes-yards 47-309 27-79
Passing 164 171
Comp-Att-Int 15-31-0 16-33-0
Return Yards 4 24
Punts-Avg. 6-42.5 6-37.7
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 7-90 3-20
Time of Possession 33:54 26:06
RUSHING: Montana, Nguyen 19-123, Moore 15-116, Kirschner 4-37, J.Johnson 4-27, Donaldson 2-7, Sambrano 1-2, Moutra 1-1, Team 1-(minus 4). Montana St., Kirk 11-45, McGhee 8-29, Gilbert 2-4, Robinson 6-1.
PASSING: Montana, J.Johnson 15-31-0-164. Montana St.,McGhee 16-33-0-171.
RECEIVING: Montana, Sambrano 4-96, Middleton 3-15, Hardy 2-27, Carver 2-8, Moutra 1-13, S.Gratton 1-9, Canada 1-0, Nguyen 1-(minus 4). Montana St., Akpla 6-113, Kirk 3-19, Robinson 3-2, T.Bleskin 1-15, S.Foster 1-12, Gilbert 1-7, Ellis 1-3.