Mississippi Valley State's offense might as well have been played on a conveyor belt Saturday afternoon. If the Delta Devils weren't throwing the football, it wasn't moving forward.
Montana's defense set a program record and came close to matching a Big Sky Conference mark by manhandling the Delta Devils rushers. The Griz held MVSU to minus-61 rushing yards.
That's right, minus-61, as in 61 yards backwards.
That shattered UM's previous best, a record that stood for 27 years. The Griz limited Weber State to minus-43 yards back in 1989 in a 31-6 final.
"During the game it's not really something we focus on. Go out there and execute your jobs, don't worry about stats or outside information," Griz sophomore linebacker Josh Buss said. "At the end of the day if that's what it ends up to be, then it's a good day."
A very good day. The Griz defense was nearly at an all-Big Sky pace. Montana State once stuffed Idaho State for minus-71 rushing yards way back in 1966.
Mississippi Valley State finished with 207 yards passing and 146 total yards of offense.
The reverse pace on the ground included runs stuffed in the backfield, quarterback sacks, fumbles bounding the wrong way and one bizarre punt play. Facing fourth-and-15 with punter Justin Read on to boot it away, a low snap left him reaching down by his shoelaces. In textbook shoe-tying formation, he dropped to a knee to scoop it up.
Ending the play there for minus-14 yards.
The Griz racked up 11 tackles for loss with five sacks and kept the Devils from earning any first downs by the run, tying another program record.
MVSU's rushing attack has been shooting blanks all year. Saturday is the third time in six games the Delta Devils have ended on the negative end of the spectrum. They entered the matchup at Montana ranked last among 122 FCS squads with 14.6 yards per game.
That number will plummet to a 2.0-yard average now. The Devils have just 12 yards rushing for the entire season.
Louie-McGee on the mend?
Montana's spark plug receiver Jerry Louie-McGee did not suit up for Saturday's game after taking a beating the past two weeks. Louie-McGee leads the Griz with 41 catches for 366 yards.
The redshirt freshman was in street clothes before kickoff with a noticeable limp, but Stitt said it's nothing to worry about. The 5-foot-9, 168-pounder was given an excused absence, a scheduled game off for rest.
"Jerry's one of those guys that when he gets banged up, he won't rest. You've got to take his pads away," Stitt said. "We're gonna do that at least for a week, rest him up so he's ready to go for the meat of the Big Sky."
Louie-McGee had 30 catches the two previous games. Typical outside receiver James Homan took his spot in the slot at Z receiver Saturday. Homan was the team's leader in both catches (six) and yards (69) and scored on a 4-yard pass.
Eleven different Griz caught passes against the Devils.
Rollin' in the red zone
Montana started Saturday's game by scoring on its first six red-zone trips to maintain a perfect pace for the season with points on 21 of 21 trips. The Griz finally had a drive inside the opponents' 20-yard line come up empty with the backups in the game late in the fourth quarter, though.
Montana couldn't cash in on a first-and-goal situation from the MVSU 8 and on fourth down from the 4, Stitt opted to keep his offense out on the field despite a 60-7 lead.
The Griz didn't care about the score at that point in the game, Stitt explained in his postgame press conference, but wanted to give backup quarterback Chad Chalich more real-game experience in tough scenarios.
"... (He) might have that type of situation at some point in the season and you want him to be able to come up with a throw," Stitt said. "You don't want to kick a field goal because you don't want to keep adding the points on, but if they score they score."
A Chalich pass to Makena Simis went incomplete in the end zone. It was also the first time this season MVSU has kept a team from scoring in its red zone in 29 tries.
Calhoun the conqueror
With two touchdown runs Saturday, Griz sophomore running back Jeremy Calhoun upped his season total to seven rushing scores. He has multiple TDs in each of his past three games with two apiece against MVSU and Southern Utah and a three-score game at Cal Poly.
Calhoun was Montana's leader in that department last year as well, scoring nine times in nine games. Together the sophomore is now up to 16 touchdowns in only 14 games played.
For comparison's sake, Montana's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns is Chase Reynolds with 52. He reached that number in 53 games, though his 11 outings as a freshman were all on special teams and he carried the ball zero times.