Montana quarterback Johnson is backbone of the Grizzlies

FARGO -- You won't find Jordan Johnson in the top 10 passing leaders in the Big Sky Conference after three games. The University of Montana senior quarterback is nowhere to be found in the passing efficiency department, either.

Jordan Johnson
Photo by Troy Babbitt / USA TODAY Montana Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson, left, prepares to hand off to running back Travon Van, right, during the second quarter against Wyoming on Aug. 30 at War Memorial Stadium in Laramine, Wyo.

FARGO - You won’t find Jordan Johnson in the top 10 passing leaders in the Big Sky Conference after three games. The University of Montana senior quarterback is nowhere to be found in the passing efficiency department, either.
All of the quarterback headlines in the league have belonged to Eastern Washington’s Vernon Adams, and for good reason. Adams leads all of FCS in passing yards, and it’s not even close.
The ESPN crowd saw his team pile up 56 points against Sam Houston State in the season opener. The Pac-12 Conference crowd read about him throwing for 475 yards in a 59-52 loss at the University of Washington.
Meanwhile, Johnson has gone about his business - with his value not as much about statistics as it is about winning.
“He’s a guy who’s won so many games for us and makes great decisions,” said Montana head coach Mick Delaney. “He’s the leader of our football team.”
Johnson brings his Grizzlies to Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome on Saturday afternoon in perhaps the biggest nonconference NDSU clash of the Division I era. It also will feature one of the more reputable quarterbacks the Bison will have faced since starting a D-I schedule in 2004.
“Their quarterback,” University of South Dakota head coach Joe Glenn said of Montana’s strength. “The guy has been in playoff games every year he’s started there, and he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He really breathes confidence into their offense. He knows where to go with the football and they’ve got some talent.”
The Coyotes were the last team to face the Grizzlies, dropping a 28-20 decision in Missoula last weekend.
Johnson’s passing statistics won’t wow anybody. He’s completed 40 of 72 passes for 312 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His completion percentage of 56 percent is about on par to what it was last year when he completed 220 of 388 passes.
But what jumps out was his touchdown-to-interception ratio of 32 TDs to just five picks.
“He has just unbelievable control of the game,” said NDSU head coach Chris Klieman. “He knows what he wants to do with the football. He’s a really sharp kid.”
That sharpness stood out on film to NDSU free safety Christian Dudzik, who said it’s easy to tell Johnson has years of experience behind him because he can read defenses so well.
“We’re not going to confuse this guy,” Klieman said. “We can show him some different looks but he’s had so many snaps it’s tough to confuse him. He’s a great quarterback. When he goes, they go.”
That was evident in the season opener, a 17-12 loss at Wyoming. The Cowboys shut down the run and forced Johnson into 45 passing attempts, completing 24.
That wasn’t the case against the Coyotes. The Grizzlies had over 200 yards rushing, and Johnson needed only 27 attempts to complete 16.
“Everything falls into place if you can run the ball, and everything else gets difficult if you can’t,” Delaney said. “So we’ll just have to see how we match up.”

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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