A couple bruising touchdown runs by Dan Moore, a blocked punt and some nifty plays by Trent McKinney had Washington-Grizzly Stadium buzzing Saturday.
What happened after, nobody saw coming.
Northern Arizona, getting turnovers from Montana and a career-best 253 rushing yards from running back Zach Bauman, scored 34 straight points to post a 41-31 Big Sky Conference win over the No. 14 Grizzlies.
Bauman, a junior, had touchdown runs of 75, 20 and 2 yards as the Lumberjacks ended 14 years of frustration. Their program hadn’t beaten UM since Jerome Souers, who was Montana’s defensive coordinator, became head coach in 1998.
In front of 25,254 fans, Montana lost its homecoming game for the first time in two decades.
“I’d love to congratulate my players and assistant coaches on our team,” said Souers, his face still shiny from a postgame Gatorade shower. “They’ve worked very hard at delivering a win of this magnitude.
“This is a stepping stone for us; it’s been in our way for years.”
The task looked monolithic after Moore, cutting off a big block by Trevor Poole, scored from 12 yards out to put Montana up 24-7 at 13:16 of the second quarter.
Moore, a 235-pounder, gave a shiver to frustrated NAU safety Lucky Dozier as he hit the end zone. But Dozier came back with eight tackles and two interceptions; the Lumberjacks picked up five turnovers – four coming in the span of five UM possessions – to take command.
“We did a great job of not panicking in the first half,” said Souers. “Montana did some schematic things that gave us some fits and them some big plays. (McKinney) threw the ball really well.”
Bauman gave a hint of what was to come on the game’s first snap. Nobody touched him on his 75-yard run. But Montana worked back behind defense – Zack Wagenmann and Jordan Tripp had third-down sacks on NAU’s next two possessions – and special teams.
Clay Pierson got a hand on an Andy Wilder punt that bounced back to the NAU 13. Two plays later Moore crashed in from 6 yards out, giving Montana a 10-7 lead at 9:49 of the first quarter.
The Griz drove 73 yards after the second punt, the last 31 coming on a twisting run by McKinney that made it 17-7 at 3:29 mark.
Moore’s second TD came after NAU went for it on fourth down at UM’s 32 and quarterback Cary Grossart misfired. McKinney hit Sam Gratton for 29 yards on the next snap to start a 68-yard drive.
Then the script flipped. Moore, after picking up first-down yardage, lost the ball on a third-down run midway through the second quarter. McKinney tried to find Greg Hardy on UM’s next possession but found Dozier instead.
Then Moore fumbled on the Grizzlies’ second play of the second half, and UM’s next possession ended in another Dozier pick.
NAU cashed in the third-quarter turnovers for a 2-yard TD pass to R.J. Rickert and a 33-yard field goal, tying the game 24-all.
The Jacks went ahead 27-24 with 1:49 left in the third on another field goal. That capped a 13-play, 61-yard drive that signaled another trend: UM’s offense couldn’t stay on the field and its defense couldn’t get off.
Bauman ran for 108 yards in the fourth quarter alone. His 20-yard burst made it 34-24 and his 57-yard run midway though the period set up his final TD, with 5:53 left in the game. NAU led 41-24.
“They’ve got, I said, one of the top two or three backs in the country,” Griz coach Mick Delaney said, before upgrading Bauman to No. 1. “He’s the top one in the country, I’d say.
“And the longer you leave that defense on the field, the less chances you have to keep him contained, because you wear down a little bit. We just kind of ran out of steam at the end as far as defense goes, and offensively we just could not ever get back in rhythm. Which you won’t, when you have turnovers.”
McKinney, who had 170 passing yards by halftime, finished with 199. Getting ample time early, he ended up taking two sacks and was flushed from the pocket often. He eventually gave way to sophomore Shay Smithwick-Hann, who fired a 45-yard TD pass to Ellis Henderson with 1:58 remaining.
The loss leaves Montana 2-2 for the second straight season. A year ago they lost 42-28 at Sacramento State but rallied to the Big Sky crown.
“It’ll be just as difficult next week at Eastern Washington,” Delaney noted. “I told the guys, ‘It’s we,’ and we’re all in this together. They’re the same guys they were five hours ago. They’re the same hard workers; they’re the same good-character guys. We’ll get back to work tomorrow night at 5 o’clock.”
The Lumberjacks, meanwhile, are walking a little taller.
“I’ve been here for three years and we’ve lost two close ones (to Montana),” said Bauman. “I know Coach wanted it real bad, and as a squad we had to have it. So it was a big win for us.”
Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 523-5247, at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Fritz_Neighbor on Twitter.
|Northern Arizona 41, Montana 31|
|NAU – Zach Bauman 75 run (Andy Wilder kick), 14:49.|
|Drive: 1 play, 75 yards, 0:11 time of possession.|
|UM – FG Chris Lider 27, 12:21.|
|Drive: 6 plays, 65 yards, 2:28 time of possession.|
|Key plays: Trent McKinney hits Ellis Henderson for 45 yards, and passes 11 yards to Dan Moore to put the Griz in field goal range.|
|UM – Dan Moore 6 run (Lider kick), 9:49.|
|Drive: 2 plays, 13 yards, 0:35 time of possession.|
|Key play: Griz TE Clay Pierson blocks an NAU punt; it’s downed 16 yards behind the line of scrimmage.|
|UM – Trent McKinney 31 run (Lider kick), 3:29.|
|Drive: 9 plays, 73 yards, 3:39 time of possession.|
|Key plays: McKinney fires passes of 6 yards to Greg Hardy and 15 to Sam Gratton to convert third downs.|
|UM – Moore 12 run (Lider kick), 13:16.|
|Drive: 7 plays, 68 yards, 1:35 time of possession.|
|Key plays: McKinney completes a 29-yard pass to Gratton, and then runs 12 yards on third-and-6 to put the ball at NAU’s 12.|
|NAU – Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson 3 run (Wilder kick), 9:15.|
|Drive: 8 plays, 75 yards, 4:01 time of possession.|
|Key plays: Cary Grossart fires passes covering 36 yards to Ify Umodu and 13 yards to Drew Emanuel; Bauman runs 8 yards to set up first-and-goal at the 5.|
|NAU – R.J. Rickert 2 pass from Cary Grossart (Wilder kick), 13:03.|
|Drive: 4 plays, 22 yards, 1:48 time of possession.|
|Key plays: NAU’s Marc Thompson forces a fumble that teammate Brandon Phillips recivers at UM’s 22; Bauman’s 12-yard run sets up first-and-goal.|
|NAU – FG Wilder 34, 10:14.|
|Drive: 4 plays, 4 yards, 1:31 time of possession.|
|Key play: NAU safety Lucky Dozier intercepts a McKinney pass and returns it 21 yards to UM’s 20.|
|NAU – FG Wilder 23, 1:49.|
|Drive: 13 plays, 61 yards, 6:40 time of possession.|
|Key plays: Grossart passes 16 yards to Dejzon Walker and 14 yards to Jake Hess; in between he finds Austin Shanks for 5 yards to convert a fourth-and-3 at UM’s 30-yard line.|
|NAU – Bauman 20 run (Wilder kick), 11:54.|
|Drive: 6 plays, 60 yards, 2:56 time of possession.|
|Key plays: Bauman gains 5 yards on third-and-3, then gives way to Deboskie-Johnson, who tears off runs of 17 and 11 yards.|
|NAU – Bauman 2 run (Wilder kick), 5:53.|
|Drive: 5 plays, 71 yards, 2:25 time of possession.|
|Key play: Bauman’s 57-yard burst puts NAU at the UM 1-yard line.|
|UM – Ellis Henderson 45 pass from Shay Smithwick-Hann (Lider kick), 1:58.|
|Drive: 2 plays, 43 yards, 0:30 time of possession.|
|Key play: Peter Nguyen’s 11-yard punt return puts UM in Lumberjack territory for the first time in the second half.|
|Average per carry||5.8||4.2|
|Sacks by-yards lost||2-6||4-24|
|Time of possession||36:30||23:30|
|Sacks by-yards lost|
|Zach McDonnell 1.5-6, Brandon Phillips 0.5-0.|
|Austin Hasquet 1-0, Marc Thompson 1-0, Brandon Phillips 0-1, Mike Dosen 0-1.|
|Lucky Dozier 2-17, Blair Wishom 1-11.|
|Missed field goals|
|Sacks by-yards lost|
|Zack Wagenmann 1-6, Josh Stuberg 1-6, Jordan Tripp 1-5, Caleb Kider 0.5-5, Tyrone Holmes 0.5-2.|
|Missed field goals|