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Montana QB Jensen granted release, will pursue transfer from Griz

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MISSOULA — Montana’s prized young quarterback will explore other options.

Griz quarterback Gresch Jensen, a Freshman All-American last fall, was granted his transfer release by first-year Griz head coach Bobby Hauck on Monday morning.

“We think Gresch is a great guy, and hope good things happen for him. We appreciate his efforts at Montana, and we will help him any way we can in the future,” Hauck said in a UM press release.

Montana quarterback Gresch Jensen has applied for his transfer release/ by Jason Bacaj

Jensen broke into the lineup for the Grizzlies in the second quarter of UM’s final non-conference game against Savannah State when senior Reese Phillips went down with a grotesque ankle injury. Jensen made his first career start the following week in UM’s Big Sky Conference opener, throwing for 358 yards and two touchdowns in UM’s 48-41 home loss to Eastern Washington in which the Griz gave up 42 second-half points.

The Auburn, Washington native then led the Griz on a three-game winning streak. He threw for 284 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in Montana’s 45-33 win at Portland State. He threw for 360 yards and four touchdowns in a 39-31 win at Idaho State. Jensen’s production operating former head coach Bob Stitt’s spread offense peaked with a 423-yard, three touchdown performance in Montana’s 41-17 homecoming win over a decimated crew from North Dakota.

By the end of his first year at the helm for Montana, Jensen had throw for 2,531 yards and 20 touchdowns, earning a spot on Jerry Rice Award ballot given to the top freshman in the Football Championship Subdivision. Jensen finished third in the voting and earned first-team Freshman All-American honors at quarterback from Hero Sports. 

Montana QB Jensen finishes third in Jerry Rice Award voting

Jensen suffered a concussion late in Montana’s 41-27 loss at Big Sky champion Weber State when his head slammed off the Stewart Stadium turf, capping a dismal day that saw UM turn the ball over five times, including three interceptions thrown by Jensen. He missed the following game against Northern Arizona. In Jensen’s place, senior Makena Simis moved back to quarterback — he played most of his final season at inside receiver — and rushed for 101 yards in a 19-17 win over No. 9 NAU aided by Lumberjacks’ QB Case Cookus’ ejection. The victory kept the Grizzlies’ playoff hopes alive for another week.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Jensen returned the next week to throw for 228 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-14 win over Northern Colorado in Montana’s home finale. The game would prove to be his final victory leading the Griz in his final performance at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

Jensen threw for 326 yards and a touchdown, a 32-yard strike to Keenan Curran with 5:25 left, but Montana could not rally in a 31-23 loss to Montana State in Bozeman, MSU’s first victory over its rival at home since 2005. The loss capped a 7-4 campaign for the Griz and led to the non-renewal of Stitt’s contract after three seasons at the helm. Montana missed the FCS playoffs for consecutive years for the first time since 1992.

In December, Montana hired Hauck for his second stint at the helm for the Griz. Hauck coached his alma mater from 2003 until 2009 before taking the same position at UNLV. Hauck hired former UNLV offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach, the OC at Montana in 2012, as his offensive play caller. Rosenbach spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons at UNLV with Hauck. The duo recruited Dalton Sneed from Phoenix to Vegas but were forced out in the Nevada desert before Sneed arrived in Sin City. In 2016, Sneed cracked the starting lineup for five games for the Rebels before he too fell out of favor. He played last year at Fort Scott Community College before Hauck and Rosenbach added him as a transfer in January.

Griz sophomore quarterback Gresch Jensen makes a pass during a spring practice drill in Washington-Grizzly Stadium on March 5, 2018/ by Lacey Young

During the first 15 spring football practices under Hauck in March and April, Sneed matched Jensen before seeming to overtake him on the depth chart. In Montana’s spring game, Sneed led the starting offense on to the field for the first three possessions, including an 11-play, 65-yard drive on the opening possession.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound dual-threat completed 13 of his 16 passing attempts for 136 yards and a touchdown to Curran. Montana ran 75 plays for 439 yards, including 362 yards through the air. Jensen had long completions of 36 yards to Sammy Akem setting up one of Alijah Lee’s two touchdowns and a 50-yard touchdown strike to Samori Toure. Jensen also threw an interception that was snared by redshirt freshman Michael McGinnis

Sneed is one of two quarterbacks on Montana’s current roster along with first-year freshman Tanner Wilson of Polson. The Grizzlies will also add Eureka standout Garrett Graves to the quarterback ranks in the summer.

Montana’s players report back for summer workouts on May 29.

“It falls on the quarterback a lot,” Sneed said following the spring game earlier this month. “Gresch and I will get the team together. And all the seniors, we have Keenan in the wide receiver group, you haven’t seen (running back) Jeremy (Calhoun) a lot since he’s injured but he’s another senior. We will get everybody who is going to be our leaders and get the players going. Once you get the players involved and the players run the practices through the leaders, there’s no better team than can run itself.”

The starter for Montana’s season opener on September 1 against Northern Iowa will be the sixth different starting quarterback for the Grizzlies since the beginning of the 2016 season, joining Brady Gustafson, Chad Chalich, Reese Phillips, Simis and Jensen.

Photos by Lacey Young, Jason Bacaj and Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved. 

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 12 year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to founded Skyline Sports.

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