Griz beat South Dakota State 61-48 in playoff opener

2009-11-28T16:15:00Z 2013-10-24T21:15:40Z Griz beat South Dakota State 61-48 in playoff openerBy the Missoulian
November 28, 2009 4:15 pm  • 

Top-seeded Montana staged one of its most remarkable comebacks ever to down South Dakota State 61-48 in a Football Championship Subdivision playoff game Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

The Griz, 12-0, advance to face the winner of the Stephen F. Austin-Eastern Washington game next Saturday in Missoula.

The Griz trailed 41-14 in the third quarter before outscoring the Jackrabbits 47-7 to close out the game.

"I'm not a historian," Montana coach Bobby Hauck said in a postgame interview in KPAX TV. "But that's the greatest comeback in school history. That's a playoff team we just came back on like that. I'm excited and proud of my team."

A good deal of the credit belongs to senior Marc Mariani, who finished with 12 catches for 171 yards and two TDs, and also returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score to spark the comeback.

"Marc did a nice job on the kickoff return," Hauck said. "He's special and I'm fortunate to have been his coach this year."

The Jackrabbits scored first on a 7-yard TD pass from Thomas O'Brien to Colin Cochart. The score was set up by a long catch-and-run by Mike Steffen.

The Jacks then capitalized on a Montana turnover to take a 14-0 lead on a short swing pass to Cochart. Griz running back Chase Reynolds coughed up the ball deep in Montana's territory.

South Dakota State put together a clock-eating drive capped by a 34-yard field goal by Kyle Harris with 12:54 to play in the second quarter to extend the margin to 17-0.

Montana got on the board when Reynolds bulled in from a yard out with 7:11 to play before halftime. The Griz took over on the SDSU 18-yard line when Severin Campbell grabbed a tipped pass from O'Brien. Andrew Selle then found Mariani wide open on the 1-yard line, setting up Reynolds' score.

Missoula's Palmer twins combined to get the Griz within 17-14. Jace Palmer sacked O'Brien and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Alex Shaw. On the next play, Selle found Ty Palmer on a post pattern for a TD.

But the Jackrabbits struck right back. Following a long kickoff return, the Jacks drove 46 yards for a score to go up 24-17 with 4:02 to play before halftime. Cochart got the final 4 yards on a pass from O'Brien.

The Jacks' Conrad Kjerstad picked off Selle and returned it to the UM 2-yard line. Two plays later, Kyle Minett dove over from the 1 to make it 31-14.

SDSU tacked on a 39-yard field goal by Harris 1:17 before halftime to make it 34-14. The score was set up when Danny Batten stripped Selle and recovered the fumble.

The Jackrabbits struck first in the second half when they blocked a Sean Wren punt and Corey Jeske recovered the ball in the end zone, giving SDSU a 41-14 lead.

The Griz responded with their best drive of the day that was capped by a 2-yard TD run by Thomas Brooks-Fletcher, cutting the gap to 41-21.

The Jacks, though, bounced right back. O'Brien hit a wide-open Glen Fox for a 61-yard gain to the UM 4. Two plays later, Minett burst over from  the 1 to give SDSU a 48-21 lead with 5:40 still to play in the third quarter.

The Griz responded a mere 15 seconds later when Mariani returned the kickoff 98 yards for a score to cut the gap to 48-27.

Montana drew within 48-34 when Selle found Mariani for a 15-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Montana got within a touchdown, 48-41, with 7:35 to play when Reynolds capped a 79-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run.

Montana completed its improbable comeback to knot the game at 48-48 with 4:11 to play. Reynolds got the last yard for the tying score.

Montana took its first lead of the game, 55-48, with 1:08 to play when Selle hit Mariani with a 4-yard scoring toss.

The Griz added an insurance TD when Campbell hauled in a tipped pass and took it to the house with 45 seconds to play, ending the Jackrabbits' hopes.

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