MISSOULA — Junior linebacker Dante Olson didn't run out of the Topel Tunnel with the sledgehammer this week, but he didn't need to.
The reigning Big Sky defensive player of the week dominated for the Grizzlies again, racking up 16 tackles, 3½ tackles for loss — two of which were sacks — with a forced fumble and a pass breakup. Olson's defensive dominance boosted the No. 14 Montana Grizzlies over the Drake Bulldogs, 48-16, on Saturday in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
"Two sacks, three and half tackles for loss, caused fumble, that's a pretty big day," Montana coach Bobby Hauck said of Olson's performance. "He might have a chance to be nominated again for the league award. He had a good day. He's obviously off to a great start to the season. We need him to be that guy."
Olson wasn't the only defensive player standing out.
Sophomore cornerback Dareon Nash grabbed two interceptions — returning one for a touchdown in the fourth quarter — and added three tackles, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.
Senior safety Reid Miller added an interception. And in total, Montana had seven sacks and two forced fumbles.
"The defense is playing well. The best thing we're doing is tackling," Hauck said. "We've tackled really well the first two weeks. I'm impressed with our effort level and our tackling. We did well in third down. ... It seemed like we did a pretty good job there.
"We let them convert the one third-and-long. It's similar to the fourth-and-long we gave up last week. We have to get some pressure on them and we need to make plays on the ball down the field. Generally speaking, I like how the defense played, obviously."
The Grizzly offense, on the other hand, crawled out the gate, despite junior quarterback Dalton Sneed starting 9-for-9 and 10-of-11 through the first quarter.
Sneed finished the afternoon completing 31-of-47 passes for 278 yards with two passing touchdowns. He added 65 yards on the ground on 13 carries and a rushing touchdown.
Part of Montana's slow start was due to penalties. The Grizzlies had two false start penalties near the end of the first quarter: one on senior wide receiver Keenan Curran and the other on the entire offensive line except center Cody Meyer.
Despite reaching Drake territory, Grizzly senior punter Eric Williams had to punt the ball away.
"I'd just call it being dumb," Hauck said. "... I didn't have any sense that we didn't have focus. We gotta quit doing dumb stuff. It's going to cost us down the road. That's just football.
"You can't do dumb things and shoot yourself in the foot. It costs you games. We're not going to have the entire training camp to get ready for a game every week like we did last week. We have to look that sharp out the gate and we didn't today."
By halftime, Montana led Drake — a non-scholarship FCS program — 10-3. Montana junior kicker Tim Semenza booted a 42-yard field goal to get the Grizzlies on the board first in the first quarter.
Drake struck back with a field goal of its own to tie Montana in the opening seconds of the second quarter. And the Grizzlies marched down the field minutes later on a six-play drive to regain the lead with a 2-yard rushing touchdown by redshirt freshman Adam Eastwood.
Eastwood rushed for 51 yards overall on Saturday and had two rushing touchdowns.
"(Drake) did a nice job," Hauck said of how the Bulldogs made things tough in the first half. "We were a little bit of a circus the first half. We didn't handle things overly well. It was a good job by our guys hanging together when it was a tight game at halftime."
Whatever Hauck and his band of coaches said at halftime worked. The offense came alive in the third quarter after Eastwood darted into the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown run. Montana scored on the next drive too, as Sneed found junior wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee for a 13-yard score.
Louie-McGee led the receiving game with 133 yards on 14 catches.
Twenty-two seconds later, Sneed dropped a dime to another receiver for a touchdown — sophomore wideout Samuel Akem, who had 86 yards receiving on Saturday — thanks to Miller's interception.
By the end of the third quarter, Montana was up on Drake, 31-10. Sneed's rushing touchdown, Semenza's 36-yard field goal and Nash's pick-6 were all added in the fourth quarter.
For Drake, senior quarterback Grant Kraemer went 23-of-42 for 281 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Senior wide receiver Devin Cates had nine catches for 80 yards. Sophomore running back Cross Robinson had 12 carries for 35 yards and safeties Will Warner and Sean Lynch paced the Bulldogs with seven tackles apiece.
Montana (2-0) hits the road next week to take on Western Illinois of the Missouri Valley Conference.