Treshawn Favors will tell you a proper rushing attack is something that cannot, in fact, be rushed.
"Be patient for the hole and then just hit it," explained the speedy Montana running back.
After waiting for the run game to develop all spring, the Grizzlies burst through the hole during the team's second spring scrimmage Saturday. Under sunny skies enjoyed by hundreds of football fans and prospective recruits alike at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, the offense put on a show with more than 200 rushing yards in the 80-plus-play outing.
After the ground game generated just 68 yards on 20 totes in Montana's first spring scrimmage March 31, the RBs carried the load and accounted for the bulk of the 207 yards on 29 attempts Saturday.
"It wasn't awful the first scrimmage, but it didn't look very good and we weren't putting first downs together," head coach Bob Stitt said. "Our offensive line is really coming along; (O-line coach Chad) Germer is doing a great job with those guys and we're going to keep getting better."
Favors, a junior, and senior John Nguyen combined for two-thirds of Montana's ground total. Nguyen gained 70 yards while Favors got 67, each on seven carries.
Patience is starting to pay off and it's proving fruitful in more ways than one. The Griz scored five touchdowns on 19 drives as both the ground and air games benefited from the threat of the rushing onslaught.
The offense's first score came on a setup from Nguyen's legs. The back had a day-long scamper of 41 yards into the opposition's territory, the first-stringers eventually cashing in from the 1-yard line when senior quarterback Brady Gustafson faked a handoff and skipped into the end zone himself.
The offense made it two TDs in two plays when the second-stringers, captained by senior QB Chad Chalich, took the field at the other end. Rolling to his right, Chalich found redshirt freshman Kobey Eaton streaking down the sideline on a play-action pass, the receiver catching the ball over an eager safety for a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
Such aggressive safety play paid off at other times Saturday. Following a three-and-out of Gustafson's 1s, junior quarterback Reese Phillips threw his second pick-six interception of the spring. Sophomore safety Evan Epperly jumped the route of H-back Mike Ralston and returned it 28 yards for a TD.
"Safety is gonna play a little up closer, stop the run a little bit, and then we're covering longer on the backside," explained Josh Sandry, a Bigfork product and redshirt freshman safety, of first-year defensive coordinator's Jason Semore's plan for the DBs. "(The offense is) gonna get big plays and we're gonna make plays."
Epperly's theft was far from the only defensive highlight of the intrasquad game, played before 138 high school recruits during Montana's junior day.
After nine sacks -- plays blown dead when a defender managed to get his hands on a QB -- in the first scrimmage, the D' went for 10 on Saturday. Senior defensive ends Caleb Kidder and Ryan Johnson each had two while junior end Tucker Schye added another pair. He has five between the two scrimmages.
Seven of the 10 sacks came against the second-string offensive line, the tackle positions really struggling against the powerful rush.
One of those, when sophomore linebacker Alex Thomas touched down Phillips, jarred the ball loose. Though senior defensive tackle Zach Peevey caught it in the air and took it to the house, the play was called dead at the spot.
Jerrin Williams, who had an interception return for a score in the first scrimmage, also picked off Chalich in the end zone two drives after Epperly's interception. Williams, a redshirt freshman safety, won a jump ball with receiver Jerry Louie-McGee.
Gustafson's 1s started at the 20 after the turnover and marched 80 yards in 15 plays, the best offensive drive of the day. Sophomore RB Jeremy Calhoun scored from a yard out a play after Sandry came from across the formation to pop Nguyen near the left pylon, keeping the offense out of the end zone momentarily.
"You get the play count up now and the run game gets going, it gets fun for a quarterback," Stitt said. "Then everything is working. We have so many options off of those base run plays that when they have to try and stop you in there and they keep adding a guy to the box, then things are going to be open outside."
The run game's effects continued to show up late in the scrimmage as both Chalich and Gustafson, holdover passers from last season, retired to the bench to allow the newcomer Phillips extra reps. The Kentucky transfer fed Favors with a 35-yard touchdown burst before ending the scrimmage with his first TD pass in Missoula.
On fourth-and-4 on what would be the last drive of the scrimmage, Phillips hit Louie-McGee in stride up the right seam for a 44-yard touchdown strike.
And he credited, you guessed it, the running game for setting up the score.
"A lot of our throws are quick and the run game helps keep the defense guessing a little bit more," Phillips said. "You could see as it went on, the offense got a little stronger as the run game went."
Louie-McGee, a redshirt freshman slot receiver, had a breakout day with 109 yards on nine catches. Eaton went over the century mark for the second consecutive scrimmage with 107 on four receptions.
Gustafson completed 17 of 22 attempts for just 66 yards, though two of his six drives ended in touchdowns. Chalich finished 7 of 11 for 114 on four drives and Phillips was 9 of 16 for 110 across seven possessions.