MISSOULA — Montana went from dominant to dormant against UC Davis in about a dozen minutes.
The Griz were outscored 46-0 in the second half, including 43-0 in a stretch of 13:04, as they blew a 21-3 halftime lead and lost to the sixth-ranked Aggies, 49-21, on Saturday in a Big Sky Conference football game at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Montana (4-4, 2-3) has lost back-to-back homes games for the first time since 2012 and lost three consecutive games in the same season for the first time since 1992.
“Our guys were very, very ready to play,” Montana head coach Bobby Hauck said. “They came out and went after it, had a real zest for the game. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t sustain that the second half. When it started to go the wrong direction, we didn’t get it turned around, which was disappointing. Obviously, disappointed not to win it.”
UC Davis (7-1, 5-0), which came in with the best scoring offense in the Big Sky, trailed Montana 21-3 when it punted to open the third quarter. The Griz then gave up scores on seven consecutive drives in the second half, losing their 18-point advantage as they allowed touchdowns on six straight drives.
While Montana’s defense handled UC Davis in the first half, the Griz got a boost from the crowd noise. The Aggies were called for 14 penalties, but only one of them came after their first score of the third quarter, which cut Montana’s lead to 21-6.
“The adjustment that we made at halftime just really dialing in our snap count and trying to avoid all those false starts was huge because without that quick fix, it could have been a long day for us,” UC Davis quarterback Jake Maier said.
Maier completed 36 of 48 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns after he was held to 83 yards on 15-of-19 passing in the first half. Maier and running backs Ulonzo Gilliam and Tehran Thomas scored one rushing touchdown apiece in the second half.
Montana’s defense produced just one tackle for loss in the second half after recording six in the first half.
“I just felt like as our tempo started picking up, I think it’s difficult to be able to dial up exotic pressures throughout the game,” Maier said. “It just felt like once we got the tempo going we were able to get a hand on it. We caught them a couple times, and luckily, it ended up paying off for us.”
Montana quarterback Dalton Sneed was picked off three times and lost a fumble, with three of those turnovers coming in the second half. He finished 25 of 37 for 230 yards with two touchdowns, being held to 10-of-16 passing for 59 yards in the second half.
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Sneed left the field holding his arm during the second half, but Hauck said he didn’t have an injury update.
The Griz came out on fire in the first half, scoring on their first drive when Sneed hit Sammy Akem for a 13-yard score. The Aggies tried to respond, but Montana held them to a 42-yard field goal by Max O’Rourke.
Tim Semenza missed a field goal and Sneed was picked off by Jordan Perryman, but Montana forced one of its three three-and-outs that half. Jeremy Calhoun scored his first touchdown of the season on a 15-yard run, and Sneed connected with Akem for a 14-yard score for a 21-3 halftime lead.
“That guy made some great plays, kept some things alive,” UC Davis head coach Tim Hawkins said of Sneed. “We had him sacked a couple times, and he was able to kind of get it going and they were just keeping us off balance a little they bit and they had the ball more than we did. We weren’t able to get some sustained drives.”
In the second half, the Griz held UC Davis to a field goal and marched to the Aggies’ 33-yard line, but Alijah Lee was stuffed on fourth-and-1 with 3:22 left in the quarter. On UC Davis’ first play, a wide receiver pass from Carson Crawford to tight end Wesley Preece netted 56 yards, and Maier hit tight end Preece for a 5-yard touchdown on the 65-second scoring drive.
On the next drive, the Aggies converted a fourth down and tied the game when Maier and Doss connected for a 4-yard score and Ulonzo Gilliam caught the two-point conversion with 13:31 left in the game.
"I just think guys are pretty calm at halftime,and these guys have had enough success and we've been down before," Hawkins said. "I think everybody had a lot of confidence that we would kind of get back on track."
Montana went three-and-out, and UC Davis’ Tehran Thomas scored on a career-long 56-yard run to make it 35-21 with 10:59 remaining. Sneed got strip-sacked by Mason Moe, UC Davis’ Cam Trimble recovered, and Gilliam scored on a 4-yard run with 9:13 left.
Sneed was picked off by Devon King on the next two drives. The first one led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Maier with 7:42 remaining, and the second resulted in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Maier to Carson Crawford, putting the Griz down 49-21 with 5:08 left on the clock.
“They didn’t change much. We didn’t change much,” Hauck said of the second half. “There wasn’t really a whole bunch of change, other than they played better, and we didn’t. We played worse.”