Game Recap

Montana’s defense scores twice, lifts Griz to 30-3 win at Northern Arizona


With one week left in their exceptional, up-and-down season, one week left before their game-to-end-all-games judgement day showdown against Montana State, the Montana Grizzlies turned in maybe their most representative performance of the year.

It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy, despite the 30-3 final score. The offense managed just one touchdown, and even the special teams units were guilty of a few egregious mistakes — but Patrick O’Connell scored on a fumble return, Garrett Graves scored on a late pick-six, and Montana’s dominant defense lifted the Grizzlies to a blowout win over Northern Arizona in Flagstaff on Saturday.

Playing without injured starting quarterback R.J. Martinez, who started the year on the bench himself, the Lumberjacks gained 154 yards of offense and had nine first downs. The two NAU quarterbacks who did play, Niko Haen and Cale Millen, finished 14 of 32 with three interceptions, including one to Montana corner Justin Ford, who had his eighth straight game with a pick.

“You score a couple times on defense and give up 150 yards, and it’s going to be a good day for the Griz,” Montana head coach Bobby Hauck said.

Montana gained 427 yards but the Griz offense only punched the ball into the end zone once, on an 8-yard carry by Isiah Childs to open the scoring early in the second quarter.

Kevin Macias kicked three field goals, including a new season-long of 49 yards.

Montana’s defense held Northern Arizona scoreless in the first half, running its shutout streak up to seven quarters, since a field goal by Southern Utah late in the third quarter of the teams’ game two weeks ago. It was the Montana defense’s second scoreless streak of over 100 minutes on the season.

NAU’s Luis Aguilar knocked in a 44-yard field goal to snap the streak after the Lumberjacks recovered a muffed punt by Aaron Fontes early in the third quarter. It was the third fumble on punt returns in three weeks for the true freshman Fontes, although the first recovered by the other team, and the resulting field goal cut Montana’s lead to 13-3.

As it has been all year, it was Montana’s defense with the answer.

NAU had a chance to draw even closer after Devontae Ingram picked off a Cam Humphrey pass and returned it to the UM 22, but Corbin Walker returned the favor with an interception in the end zone for the Griz.

“(Our defense) did a really great job today,” Hauck said. “It’s comforting to sit over here and be the head coach and know the other side can’t move the ball.”

Patrick O’Connell after scoring a defensive touchdown

Two drives later, Robby Hauck blindsided Millen on a safety blitz, the ball came out and O’Connell returned it 14 yards for a score.

The Griz defense added another touchdown with under two minutes left when Graves picked off Haen over the middle and returned it 25 yards for the final margin.

Humphrey finished 21 of 37 for 280 yards for Montana, leaving the game briefly twice after getting sacked but returning both times. Xavier Harris ran for 70 yards on 18 carries. Cole Grossman had three catches for a team-high 93 yards.

Robby Hauck, who started his career at Northern Arizona, had 14 tackles, while senior Jace Lewis had two sacks and four tackles for loss for the Griz defense. Northern Arizona’s longest drive of the game, a 50-yarder, came with a 25-yard on a fake punt by linebacker Tristen Vance, which doubled as the Lumberjacks’ second-longest play of the day after a late 26-yard throw to Jamal Glaspie.

Montana (8-2, 5-2 Big Sky Conference) hosts Montana State next week.

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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