BUTTE -- Josh Sandry didn't have to ponder long whether Saturday's pick-fest marked a career best for the former Bigfork star.
Ever had three interceptions in a game before, Josh?
"Not even in practice," Sandry chuckled.
The sophomore safety returned two of his three picks for touchdowns Saturday and the No. 1 defense intercepted five passes in all to help the White Team rout the Maroon 34-7 in the annual Grizzly Spring Game.
Four of the five interceptions came off projected No. 1 quarterback Reese Phillips. The senior split drives with redshirt freshman Gresch Jensen for the Maroon, which paired Montana's first-string offense with its No. 2 defense.
The trouble was that first-string White defense was always there waiting.
"Our 1s on 1s, it's a tough deal for our offense," Griz head coach Bob Stitt said. "Really, really pleased with that side of the ball. We'll learn from that offensively."
The lessons started early at Butte High's Naranche Stadium.
Just five plays into the Maroon's first offensive set, White defensive tackle Jesse Sims nabbed pick No. 1. The burly sophomore from Stevensville dropped back into a zone and pulled the ball out of the air with a leaping grab associated more often by players carrying half his 254 pounds.
A missed field goal gave the ball back to Phillips -- the first of two misses by sophomore kicker Tim Semenza -- and this time enemy hands showed up on his first pass. Sandry jumped a short route out to the right and scampered 33 yards for a touchdown.
"It was just a call that coach (Jason) Semore put in and I spun down and it just so happened the ball was coming my way," Sandry said of recognizing the throw. "And it happened twice."
The second came on another Phillips throw in the flat, this time closer to midfield. By the time Sandry finished running 54 yards to the end zone, the White had a 28-0 lead with still 5 minutes left in the half.
In between Sandry strikes, the White offense went to work behind junior Caleb Hill, who captained the second-string O'. He passed for a 17-yard touchdown to senior Makena Simis and a 37-yarder to redshirt freshman Samori Toure.
Hill had his best outing of the spring with three TDs in all -- he added a 31-yarder up the seam to Helena walk-on Danny Burton -- to go with 188 yards on 15 of 27 passing. Across the way, Phillips finished 15 of 27 as well for 140 yards while Jensen was 8 of 14 for 108 and one pass intercepted by redshirt freshman cornerback Dareon Nash.
Neither Maroon QBs threw a touchdown.
"It's one of those things, they just made some plays," said Phillips, who has been the No. 1 QB all spring. "They bounced back and usually that's how it is. If the offense does well, the defense will bounce back and have a big day."
Phillips had a pair of scores against no picks in last week's scrimmage.
The Maroon finally broke the shutout with 5:45 left in the simulated game. Jensen led an 80-yard drive inside the 5-yard line before diving over the top of sophomore linebacker Vika Fa'atuiese for the score.
Two offensive possessions earlier, a Phillips-led drive had died in the red zone. Facing fourth-and-2 from the 5, sophomore defensive end Chris Favoroso lined up way off the right tackle and tore around the edge for the easy sack.
The White defense had five sacks, including two by Townsend redshirt freshman linebacker Jace Lewis, who put an exclamation point on an outstanding spring with 10 tackles and 4.5 for loss. The defense also held the Maroon to just seven rushing yards on 22 attempts.
Maroon defenders Randy Rodriguez and Devin Maua, both redshirt freshmen, had two sacks apiece as well.
"They are very consistent in bringing us pressure and making us uncomfortable, which is what you need," Phillips said of the pass rush. "Again, it's not what you want when you're actually playing, but it is good to see them against our 1s do well."
The final whistle at Naranche -- which happened to coincide with Sandry's final pick on a prayer from Phillips into the end zone -- also marked the end of Montana's spring football drills. The fight for the starting QB job looks far from over before the Griz next take the field Sept. 2 against Valparaiso in the season opener.
Phillips and the UM offense will await the Crusaders with longing, a day when they'll no longer have to face Sandry and the White-hot defense.