Big Sky Conference

Hauck moves past Read as Griz top winner as Montana blows past Vandals

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Montana made it two dominating road wins in two weeks, going up 29-6 at halftime to win going away against Idaho Saturday, 46-27.

It was the first time the two rivals had played since 2003. With the win, the Griz kept the Little Brown Stein, the traditional rivalry trophy, and Bobby Hauck became the all-time winningest coach in Montana history, recording his 86th victory to surpass Don Read.

One week after blowing out Southern Utah 57-14 in Cedar City, Montana was once again dominant in all phases of the game.

UM junior quarterback Dalton Sneed was 12-of-20 passing for 220 yards and three touchdowns, hitting two big plays to Sammy Akem and one to true freshman Gabe Sulser. The quarterback also carried the ball 14 times for 129 yards and a touchdown, leading the Griz in rushing.

The win, coupled with Montana State’s 35-7 win over Northern Colorado, kept a little bit of outside intrigue in next week’s rivalry showdown between the Griz and the Bobcats. Both the ‘Cats and the Griz are sitting at 6-4 heading into the finale, and the winner would be on the FCS playoff bubble.

A 37-14 Cal Poly win over Idaho State likely pushed the Bengals out of the playoff picture. ISU is now 5-2 in league, 6-4 overall but one of the wins is a Division II victory. ISU plays at No. 3 Weber State, a 31-18 winner over Southern Utah to move to 6-1 in league, 8-2 and solidify a postseason bid for the third straight season.

No. 5 Eastern Washington dismantled No. 6 UC Davis, posting a 59-20 victory that moves EWU to 6-1 in league play, 8-2 overall. The loss is Davis’ first in conference play and dropped the Aggies to 8-2 overall.

North Dakota stayed alive in the playoff picture with a 17-10 win over Portland State to move to 6-4.

Montana running back Adam Eastwood/ by Russ Hons, UND athletics

Saturday in Moscow, Montana’s big-play ability put the game out of reach early.

After an opening field goal from Cade Coffey gave Idaho a 3-0 lead, Sneed bought time and found a wide-open Sulser in the middle of a broken defense for a 59-yard touchdown. That started a run of five straight touchdown drives for the Griz.

Junior rover Josh Sandry stepped in front of an Idaho pass and returned the interception 29 yards to the Vandals 27, setting up a 2-yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman tailback Adam Eastwood.

Following an Idaho punt, Sneed stepped up and took a hit while delivering a beautifully-placed 52-yard touchdown to Akem. Holder Reid Miller ran in a 2-point conversion to make it 22-3 early in the second quarter.

Akem continued his run of big plays, catching a 40-yard deep ball with a defender all over him on the next drive and finishing the series with a 5-yard touchdown catch, on which he motioned through the backfield and was wide-open in the flat, for a 29-3 lead. The 6-foot-4 sophomore now has 12 touchdowns this season, the most in the Big Sky Conference. 

After another Coffey field goal, the Griz capped the half appropriately, with Sneed breaking a 62-yard run and junior wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee finishing the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. The scoring burst marked the first rushing touchdown for the Idaho native this season. 

With running back Jeremy Calhoun out due to what was described as a “player decision,” Montana stayed away from its running backs almost completely in the first half, using Sneed and Louie-McGee’s shiftiness in the run game instead. Eastwood had just four carries in the first half.

With a 36-6 lead at halftime, Montana coasted in the second half.

Montana wide receiver Samuel Akem (18)/by Jason Bacaj

Vandals quarterback Mason Petrino and Sneed traded 1-yard touchdown runs in the third quarter. Idaho scored two touchdowns in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to bring the game back to competitiveness. In the fourth quarter, Hauck played sophomore Cam Humphrey and redshirt freshman Tanner Wilson at quarterback. True freshman Garrett Graves, a Eureka product who quarterbacked Lincoln County High School to consecutive Class B championships, got his first action as a Griz at running back. 

Akem had over half of Montana’s receiving yardage, with six grabs for 130 yards and the two scores. It was his fourth straight game with two touchdowns. The Broken Arrow, Oklahoma native up to 53 catches for 735 yards and 12 scores this season, all tops on a Griz team that returned its three top pass catches from a year ago in senior Keenan Curran, Louie-McGee and sophomore Samori Toure. 

Dante Olson led the Griz with 10 total tackles, breaking Kendrick Van Ackeren’s Montana single-season record of 130 tackles in a season in the process. Olson has 133 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and six sacks so far during a Buck Buchanan Award-caliber season. 

Petrino threw for 310 yards on 45 attempts and Isaiah Saunders ran for 123 on 20 for the Vandals, who actually out-gained Montana 457 to 420 thanks to their garbage-time efforts.

Hauck is now 86-21 as his eighth season at his alma mater winds down. He is 51-9 in Big Sky play. He will gun for his sixth win in eight matchups against the rival Bobcats in Missoula next week.

Photos by Jason Bacaj, Russ Hons & Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved. 

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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