Big Sky Conference

Griz take advantage of Mustangs’ mistakes, drill Cal Poly

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The Montana Grizzlies took advantage of mistakes early and cruised to a 48-28 win over a game Cal Poly Saturday.

The win, Montana’s first over the Mustangs in the last four games between the schools, moved the Griz to 4-1, 2-0 in Big Sky play.

Dante Olson had a career-high 24 tackles in the win, and Adam Eastwood became the first Montana running back to go over 100 yards in a game this season, carrying 16 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns.

The outcome wasn’t in much doubt after a first half that saw Montana go up 31-7.

The Griz opened the game with a field goal from Tim Semenza.

After Cal Poly couldn’t convert a fourth-and-1, Montana had to punt the ball away, but returner J’uan Campbell tried to scoop up the bouncing ball and muffed it. Long snapper Michael O’Donoghue recovered at the Mustangs’ 7, and Dalton Sneed hit Gabe Sulser for a 6-yard touchdown two plays later.

It would only get worse for Cal Poly.

The Mustangs moved the ball for 13 plays on their next drive, grinding the Montana defense down, but on the 14th play, a high pitch from senior quarterback Khaleel Jenkins bounced off the face mask of his intended target.

UM senior Josh Buss intercepted the bounce for Montana and returned the ball 80 yards for a touchdown, making it 17-0 before the end of the first quarter.

Montana linebacker Josh Buss (42) celebrates a fumble recovery earlier this season/by Jason Bacaj

Cal Poly, whose triple option ground out yards all game to the tune of 412 yards on 83 carries, finally put a mistake-free drive together to make it 17-7, but Montana struck right back with a 54-yard touchdown pass from Sneed to sophomore Sammy Akem.Senio

Akem led all players with five catches for 93 yards.

After the teams traded punts, Cal Poly came up short on another fourth-and-1, and Sneed found redshirt freshman Matt Rensvold for an 8-yard touchdown with 32 second left in the first half to make it 31-7.

Poly’s offense scored on its first two drives in the second half, but Montana had an answer each time, first with a 14-yard touchdown run by Eastwood and then with a 27-yard field goal by Semenza, which made it 41-21.

Needing to score on every possession to get back in the game, Poly had no choice but to go for it on fourth-and-4 from the Montana 22 on the following drive, but Jenkins was taken down by junior Jesse Sims and Olson short of the marker for the turnover.

Three plays later, Eastwood hesitated, sidestepped and burst through a huge hole for a 68-yard score, making it 48-21 and putting the game to bed.

Senior Joe Protheroe added a late touchdown, his third of the game to tie a career high. The Cal Poly senior fullback finished with 139 yards on 35 carries, his third straight game of at least 34 carries and his third straight game with at least that many yards. He has rushed for 543 yards and six touchdowns over the last three weeks.

The Mustangs actually out-gained Montana 512 to 468, and had 32 first downs to Montana’s 18.

But the lack of big plays gave them no margin for error, and the mistakes they did make were killers.

Sneed finished 23-of-32 for 285 yards, three touchdowns, and one late, meaningless interception for Montana.

Drew Hernandez joined Protheroe over 100 yards with 135 yards on 14 carries.

It will be Homecoming Week next Saturday for Montana as the Griz take on Portland State at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

Cal Poly will travel to Sacramento State.

About Andrew Houghton

Andrew Houghton grew up in Washington, DC. He graduated from the University of Montana journalism school in December 2015 and spent time working on the sports desk at the Daily Tribune News in Cartersville, Georgia, before moving back to Missoula and becoming a part of Skyline Sports in early 2018.

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