The milestones for Jordan Canada kept piling up Saturday while the Montana State Bobcats just fell further behind.
At the end of his 119-yard performance in Montana’s 34-7 thumping of the Bobcats, the 190-pound senior out of Duarte, California, didn’t know who to hug first -- his O-line or his defense.
Canada took his place in the pantheon of Grizzly running backs with a minute left in the 114th Brawl of the Wild, with a 13-yard run on “18 force:” a lead play behind 250-pound fullback Jamal Wilson.
That gave him 1,011 yards. He joins Yohance Humphery, Chase Reynolds and Lex Hilliard as Griz backs with multiple 1,000-yard seasons.
Canada credited the quintet of Logan and Jordan Hines, David Reese, Devon Dietrich and Ben Weyer, a young offensive line that kept the Bobcats’ pressuring defense at bay.
“Those brothers continue to improve every day,” said Canada. “They’ve been putting the work in and killing it in the weight room, and in practice. When guys show effort like that and it goes over onto the field, you can’t ask for more.”
In a way, though, Canada kind of did: Late in the third quarter he took a handoff, roamed left and, already staring at a negative play, had the ball stripped loose by MSU’s Taylor Sheridan.
The Cats' Cole Moore picked it up rumbled 38 yards down to UM’s 25, and it began to dawn on the record crowd at Washington-Grizzly Stadium that although the Griz led 27-0, there was a lot of game left.
Three plays later -- after Jeyshawn Gates was ruled down inches short of the goal line on a reverse -- it was over. Kendrick Van Ackeren and Herbert Gamboa blitzed, hit both MSU quarterback Jake Bleskin and running back Chad Newell and royally screwed up the exchange.
Jeremiah Kose, UM’s third linebacker, ended up with the fumble.
“The whole defense, I’m blown away by them,” said Canada. “To hold them to seven points -- zero for 75 percent of the game -- that’s amazing. It speaks for itself. Six, seven turnovers? I love it.”
Yet at the same time Canada rued his one miscue.
“I’m not as happy as I thought I’d be,” he said. “Or should be, because of that fumble. I’m trying to get over that so I can celebrate with my teammates. That’s letting the whole team down, and generations of great Grizzlies down. Worst feeling you can imagine.”
It was the Bobcats’ last, best chance. They didn’t have the services of starting quarterback Dakota Prukop, who warmed up on a bulky knee brace but didn’t play.
He might have made a difference. Bleskin, a junior out of Great Falls who played well in the Cats’ victory over Idaho State last week, had by far the toughest of his four starts. The last low point came after Gates came so close to scoring.
“We ran an edge blitz with me and Herbert and we hit both of those dudes at the same time,” said Van Ackeren, who like Gamboa had 11 tackles Saturday. “Honestly, we came to the sideline and were like, ‘Who did you hit, and who did I hit, and when did the ball come out?’ We had no idea.”
The Bobcats had some bad breaks -- Jordan Johnson had an apparent fumble ruled an incomplete pass in the first half -- but one statistic stands out. The Bobcats had seven turnovers Saturday, and Canada’s fumble was UM’s seventh turnover all season.
For which he can be forgiven. He’s come a long way from his start at UM, which was a redshirt year in 2010 and an injury-prone 2011. After one 2011 practice he was memorably dressed down by then-running backs coach Mick Delaney for a perceived lack of effort.
“He’s matured to be the guy he is now,” said Justin Green, Montana’s current running backs coach. “One of our captains, one of our leaders.”
Canada ranks, and will likely finish, fourth on UM’s career lists for rushing yards and touchdowns. He got his 38th rushing TD Saturday, along with his first career touchdown reception. Both came in a dominant first quarter that ended with the Grizzlies up 17-0.
“They had been averaging 21 points per game in the first quarter,” said Delaney, who became the Grizzlies’ head coach in 2012. “They’ve been averaging I believe 44 points, 500-some yards, and we shut them down dominantly.”
Delaney announced his retirement last Sunday, making this his last Brawl of the Wild. He’s 71 and been all over the coaching map: Great Falls High, UM-Western, Colorado State and yes, the Cats.
It was hard to imagine the Griz losing in this scenario. Delaney talked Tuesday about heading to the Metals restaurant in Butte to eat breakfast Friday, because the road team -- after stopping at Metals for lunch -- had won the last five Brawls.
"I went to Butte but I didn’t stay for breakfast," he said. "That’s a myth you know. You don’t have to eat in Butte to beat Montana State."
You just have to make plays.
“Today was probably the most special day of my coaching career because of what these young men and our coaches did today,” Delaney said.
Canada had his back. Everybody else had Canada’s.
Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 523-5247, or @Fritz_Neighbor on Twitter.