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Wyoming 17, Montana 12

Aug. 30, 2014

In a game that saw two lightning delays totaling 57 minutes, the host Cowboys punched in two touchdowns in the third quarter to erase Montana’s 6-3 halftime lead.

The Grizzlies had just 42 rushing yards in their season opener, in front of 25,243 fans at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyoming.

The Football Bowl Subdivision hosts allowed Montana 253 yards of offense, and scored the go-ahead touchdown after Jordan Johnson was sacked on fourth-and-8 at the Wyoming 42 in the third quarter.

Shaun Wick’s 5-yard run made it 10-6, and a 58-yard burst by D.J. May later in the third quarter gave the Cowboys all the points they needed.

“You know you come and play an FBS team like Wyoming or any of them and certainly you want to put your kids in a position where they have an opportunity to win the game,” Montana coach Mick Delaney said. “We did that. We played very well in a lot of instances, then kind of wore out and broke down a little bit in the second half.”

Montana’s points came via an option pass from receiver Ryan Burke to Josh Janssen covering 26 yards in the first half, and an 18-yard TD pass from Johnson to tight end Mike Ralston late.

Receiver Ellis Henderson, who missed much of fall camp with a viral infection, had five catches for 48 yards. Travon Van made nine catches for 66 yards and rushed for 19 yards on eight carries.

Montana’s defense proved sturdy, surrendering just 301 yards. Wyoming ran for 209 of that.

The Cowboys ended up 4-8 in its first season under new head coach Craig Bohl, who came over from North Dakota State. Wyoming was 2-6 in the Mountain West Conference.

Montana 48, Central Washington 14

Sept. 6, 2014

This was another odd game in that Jordan Johnson, banged up against Wyoming, didn’t suit up and Ellis Henderson caught just one pass. And every time Travon Van took a handoff, he scored.

Van rushed for 83 yards – on scoring runs of 31, 9 and 43 yards – and added another touchdown on an 85-yard pass from Shay Smithwick-Hann.

On his two other catches Van lost a total of 15, but the Grizzlies still piled up 443 yards of offense against the Division II Wildcats.

Montana also had a special teams touchdown from Tucker Schye, who snared a fumble by teammate and return man John Nguyen – a Wildcat jumped on the ball but it kicked up in the air when he rolled over – and sped 46 yards for the score.

That made it 17-0 before the game was 11 minutes old.

Smithwick-Hann, the fifth-year senior out of Kalispell Glacier, finished with 185 yards.

“I've said it a million times, he's our 11th coach,” UM coach Mick Delaney said of the backup QB. “He understands every single thing we're doing on offense. He works hard every day, he coaches the other guys, he helps them get better. Then when his turn comes or when his number's called he goes and performs like a champion.”

Montana 28, South Dakota 20

Sept. 13, 2014

This non-league game, played in front of a record 26,303 fans under the lights at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, was sealed after Tonga Takai forced a South Dakota fumble near midfield and teammate Derek Crittenden recovered for the Griz.

Montana soon capitalized with a 28-yard scoring run from Travon Van for a 28-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.

The Grizzlies rushed for 156 yards after halftime and finished with 207, behind a makeshift offensive line that included two sophomores and a true freshman.

“That’s one of the reasons you play the game, to impose your will on someone else,” said UM running back Jordan Canada, who had 98 of his 114 yards after intermission.

Jordan Johnson threw for 127 yards for the Grizzlies, including scoring strikes of 12 yards to Mitch Saylor and 14 yards to Jamaal Jones.

Freshman John Nguyen had his first TD run for the Griz, covering 9 yards late in the first quarter. It gave his team the lead for good, 7-0.

Meanwhile defensive end Zack Wagenmann made life tough on USD quarterback Ryan Saeger, sacking him three times.

South Dakota, which fell to 1-13 in road games under former UM coach Joe Glenn, lost three turnovers. The Coyotes ended up 2-10, and 0-8 in Missouri Valley Conference.

North Dakota State 22, Montana 10

Sept. 20, 2014

The Fargo Dome wasn’t kind to the Grizzlies, who lost to top-ranked and three-time national champion North Dakota State.

Montana drew to 12-10 at halftime, with all the Bison points coming on Adam Keller field goals.

But then the Griz, who had found the end zone with a 3-yard Jordan Canada run, were shut out in the second half. When NDSU’s Casey Wentz found Kevin Vaadeland with a 3-yard TD pass in the third quarter, the 19-10 lead seemed insurmountable.

Keller tacked on a fifth field goal in the fourth quarter.

Canada’s TD run was set up by a 72-yard pass from Jordan Johnson to Jamaal Jones, but big plays were few for UM, which was outgained 447-256.

Montana again had trouble running the ball, gaining 68 yards on 19 carries. Johnson threw for 188 yards, but had a pass picked off in the NDSU end zone in the third quarter.

“Our guys came in and worked their behinds off,” said Montana coach Mick Delaney, who saw Wyoming transfer Daniel Sullivan convert a chip-shot field goal late in the first half. “We’re young but we’re getting better week-by-week.”

The loss left the Griz 2-2 going into Big Sky Conference play. It was the 28th straight win for the Bison, who saw their FCS-record streak snapped at 33 by Northern Iowa in November.

The Missouri Valley Conference power was 12-1 heading into a quarterfinal playoff game with Coastal Carolina at press time.

Montana 38, Northern Colorado 13

Sept. 27, 2014

The host Grizzlies put up 28 first-quarter points in their Big Sky Conference opener, the floodgates opening after Addison Owen blocked a punt on the Bears’ first possession.

Jordan Johnson cashed in the short field with a 9-yard scoring pass to Jamaal Jones; before the quarter was over he found Ryan Burke for 41 yards and a touchdown and added a 9-yard scoring run of his own.

Travon Van checked in with a 71-yard TD run as well for the Griz, who led 21-0 and 28-7. Johnson fired a second TD pass to Mike Ralston in the second half, and Montana averaged 7.3 yards per offensive snap.

Quarterback Jonathon Newsom threw for 198 yards and ran for 72 more for the Bears, and had a 74-yard scoring run. But the Grizzlies’ quick start made that academic.

“We came out fast like we said we had to,” Montana coach Mick Delaney said. “We executed well in the first half. Obviously we still have some work to do but there were a lot of good things.”

That included the play of Zack Wagenmann, who had a sack – his seventh of the season –and a forced fumble for the Griz.

Montana 18, North Dakota 15

Oct.4, 2014

Daniel Sullivan, the transfer from Wyoming, put his stamp on the program by nailing a game-winning, 35-yard field with no time left in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

“That’s the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in sports,” said Sullivan. “It’s my first-ever attempt at a game-winner, and I’m glad it went through.”

The boot came after North Dakota used a 14-yard interception return by Chris Brown, then a two-point PAT pass to knot the game at 15-all.

Shay Smithwick-Hann, playing in relief of a banged-up Jordan Johnson, threw the pick with 5:49 left. But with under a minute to play the senior QB found Jamaal Jones for 46 yards down to North Dakota’s 15-yard line, setting up Sullivan’s game-winner.

Zack Wagenmann had two sacks – one for a safety – from his defensive end spot for the Griz, who led a rough-and-tumble game 15-0 after Travon Van’s 2-yard scoring run late in the third quarter. Van also caught a scoring pass, a 10-yard TD strike from Smithwick-Hann.

Montana had its first four possessions end in UND territory with no points, and the Griz saw North Dakota miss a 40-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

“It’s kind of one of those moments: ‘Well, what are you made of?’ ” Wagenmann said of the final moments. “To walk out of that situation with a victory is awesome.”

North Dakota ended up 5-7, 3-5 in the Big Sky.

Montana 42, UC Davis 28

Oct. 11, 2014

Jordan Canada had TD bursts of 74, 24 and 21 yards in the second half to keep the Grizzlies clear of the Aggies of UC Davis.

Canada finished with 151 yards on 15 carries, while Jordan Johnson threw for 280 yards and two TDs and ran for another score for Montana.

Jamaal Jones had a highlight-reel catch of a 24-yard TD strike from Johnson, who guided Montana to a season-best 490 yards of offense in front of a happy Washington-Grizzly Stadium crowd.

“I thought we played probably our best whole game,” said Johnson, who also hit Mitch Saylor for a touchdown to break a 14-14 halftime tie. “I think this was a good stepping stone. We need to build off it.”

Ben Scott threw for 257 yards and four touchdowns for the Aggies, with two TDs – to Dalton Turay and Ramon Vargas – coming in the fourth quarter. Each made it a one-touchdown game, and each time Canada answered.

“Man, I don’t know if you really can describe that feeling,” Canada said. “Like Jordan Johnson already said, our O-line, they just had a day.”

Herbert Gamboa had a day, too: The linebacker’s 11 stops included two for losses, a sack and a forced fumble.

The Aggies ended up 2-9, though they upset Cal Poly near the end of the season for their only Big Sky win.

Cal Poly 41, Montana 21

Oct. 25, 2014

Chris Brown, not to be confused with the one for North Dakota, led a strong second-half for the host Mustangs, throwing for one touchdown and running for two others.

The Grizzlies forged a 14-14 tie at halftime behind Jordan Johnson TD passes to Jamaal Jones and Mitch Saylor, but couldn’t stop Cal Poly’s quarterback.

Brown ran for 226 yards on 21 carries, and had touchdowns of 17 and 15 yards. Those TDs, along with his scoring strike to Kori Garcia, put Cal Poly up 34-14 with 9:39 left in San Luis Obispo.

Johnson added a second TD pass to Jones with 6:34 left, but Cal Poly answered with a clock-eating, 59-yard drive that ended in Dano Graves’ 1-yard scoring run.

“Their quarterback is a tremendous athlete and we didn’t hold up well enough,” UM coach Mick Delaney said. “We couldn’t tackle him and we couldn’t move the ball well enough on offense.”

The total yardage was 528-376 in favor of Cal Poly. Johnson threw for 248 yards. Jamaal Jones had eight catches for 134 yards.

The win put Cal Poly in position for the postseason, but then the Mustangs lost back-to-back games at Idaho State and at home to UC Davis. They finished 7-5, and 5-3 in the Big Sky.

Montana 31, Sacramento State 13

Nov. 1, 2014

A 68-yard scoring run from Jordan Canada to start the second half and a 14-yard touchdown strike from Jordan Johnson to Mitch Saylor gave the Griz a commanding 31-6 lead in front of 24,035 fans at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

Montana’s defense gave up 356 yards and 21 first downs, but until Garrett Safron’s 1-yard run with 32 seconds left, the high-powered Hornets couldn’t find the end zone.

Safron, another double-threat quarterback, threw for 262 yards but was sacked twice – once by Zack Wagenmann. He ran for 43 yards.

Daniel Sullivan hit a chip-shot field goal for UM, set up by Kendrick Van Ackeren’s 59-yard interception return off of Safron.

“We know that a guy like him is going to get some plays. He’s a good football player,” UM coach Mick Delaney said. “But our defense harassed him. I told them before the game, ‘I want you to make this the most miserable day of his entire career,’ and I think we did that a little bit today.”

Canada ran 12 times for 109 yards and two TDs, while Johnson threw for 143 yards. Travon Van ran eight times for 42 yards and a second-quarter TD that put Montana up 17-3.

Sacramento State recovered to finish 7-5, including a 4-4 mark in Big Sky play.

Eastern Washington 36, Montana 26

Nov. 8, 2014

While Montana’s defense did a creditable job on the red turf, Vernon Adams, Jr., still threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns to lead Eastern past the Griz at Roos Field.

Adams, seeing his first action in a month because of broken bones in his foot, showed little rust: All of his TDs covered 30 yards or longer.

Those, plus a 67-yard punt return TD by Cooper Kupp, gave EWU a 33-10 lead midway through the third quarter.

Sacks by Zack Wagenmann and Tyrone Holmes, plus three from Herbert Gamboa, helped the Griz work their way back. So did a career-best 447 passing yards from Jordan Johnson.

Montana drew to 33-23 after Holmes forced a fumble that Derek Crittenden recovered for the Griz near midfield; Johnson then hit Jamaal Jones for 38 yards and the TD.

That was late in the third quarter and the Grizzlies got the ball back twice with a chance to get closer, but managed just a Daniel Sullivan field goal. That cut the gap to 33-26.

Eastern nearly ran out the final 5:56 before tacking on a field goal by Tyler McNannay.

Montana piled up 333 yards after halftime. Johnson had a 28-yard scoring strike to Ryan Burke in the first half and a 61-yard TD to Travon Van in the second. He also had two interceptions, one near the Eastern goal line on UM’s first drive.

“We played really hard in the second half and didn’t give up,” said Johnson. “We just didn’t make enough plays early in the game. I didn’t make enough plays – real frustrating.”

Jones had nine catches for 139 yards. For Eastern, Kupp (134 yards) and Shaq Hill (114) each had eight catches.

Eastern went onto to claim its third straight Big Sky championship, going 7-1 in league games. The Eagles took an 11-2 mark into a home quarterfinal against Illinois State Saturday.

Montana 35, Southern Utah 17

Nov. 15, 2014

The Grizzlies fell behind 17-14 in Cedar City, Utah, and then ran off three straight touchdowns – two of them by Jordan Canada, who rushed for 206 yards.

An interception by Nate Harris and a defensive stand at their own 12 helped the Grizzlies hold onto a 21-17 lead, taken when Canada scored on a 14-yard run in the third quarter.

Then Canada tore off a 57-yard touchdown run to give the Griz some breathing room.

Three Southern Utah drives ended inside Montana’s 20 without points. Zack Wagenmann had a sack to draw even with the late Tim Bush for UM’s career lead, at 32.5.

Jordan Johnson went down with an ankle injury, but backup quarterback Shay Smithwick-Hann led an 88-yard drive that ended with Jamal Wilson’s first career TD run.

But Canada did the most damage.

“This is the time of year when you’ve got to really show your true colors and I think we’re finally getting into our true form,” the senior running back said. “I’m hoping we can go and transfer a lot of this into the Cats and then play even better.”

Nov. 22, 2014

Montana 34, Montana State 7

The Grizzlies played even better against the Cats, dominating on both sides of the ball while punching their ticket to the FCS playoffs in front of another Washington-Grizzly Stadium record crowd of 26,352.

Montana’s defense came up with seven turnovers, including five interceptions of Jake Bleskin, who was making his fourth start in place of injured Bobcat quarterback Dakota Prukop. Bleskin was sacked three times, once by Zack Wagenmann, who became UM’s career leader.

Kendrick Van Ackeren and Herbert Gamboa had 11 tackles each, and Van Ackeren and Jeremiah Kose (10 tackles) each recovered a fumble. Safety Matt Hermanson made three interceptions.

On offense, Jordan Canada had a touchdown rushing and receiving to make it 17-0 in the first quarter, and Mitch Saylor’s catch of a 4-yard scoring pass by Johnson put Montana ahead 27-0 with 3:05 left in the first half.

Johnson threw for 313 yards and a third touchdown, covering 9 yards to Josh Janssen, early in the fourth quarter.

“Tonight reminded me of that run we had in 2011 when we were just rolling people,” Johnson said. “It just felt like we could do no wrong. Hopefully we can take that and make another run through the playoffs.”

Montana drew even with MSU and Idaho State in Big Sky play, tied for second at 6-2. The Griz and Cats both made the playoffs; the Bobcats lost their first-round game to South Dakota State, 47-40 in Bozeman. They ended up 8-5.

Montana 52, San Diego 14

Nov. 29, 2014

The Toreros of the Pioneer League were a nice draw for the Griz, who led 38-0 at halftime behind three Jordan Johnson touchdown passes and a 60-yard punt return by John Nguyen.

Jordan Canada had his third straight 100-yard rushing game (105) and had a TD rushing and receiving for the second straight Saturday. His 17-year burst capped the first-half surge, which was also fueled by scoring passes covering 22 and 30 yards to Jamaal Jones.

UM’s Shay Smithwick-Hann fired touchdown passes to Loyola Sacred Heart products Josh Janssen and Kevin Berland in the second half.

The game began in sunlight and ended in snow – a first for many of the San Diego players – in front of 14,018 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. The non-scholarship Toreros were out-gained 442-158 in total yardage and ended up 10-2.

Jones had six catches for 93 yards, putting him at 1,036 (with eight TDs) for the season. The junior quickly turned his attention toward a second-round playoff rematch with Eastern Washington.

“I feel happy we get another opportunity to play them,” said Jones of matchup up with Eastern Washington. “I feel the outcome may be different, but we just have to make sure we keep doing what we’re doing.”

Eastern Washington 37, Montana 20

Dec. 6, 2014

The Grizzlies couldn’t keep their late-season surge going on Roos Field, where the Eastern defense kept Jordan Johnson in sight and the offense made enough plays to advance.

The Griz D held up against the talented Cooper Kupp (12 catches, but just 86 yards) and Vernon Adams (182 yards and two TDs passing), but Eastern’s run game hurt them. Quincy Forte ran for 128 yards, including a 27-yard burst that put the Eagles up 27-10 late in the third quarter. Adams, after getting sacked five times in the first half, ran for 80 yards in the second.

A blocked punt by Ronnie Hamlin set up Eastern’s first TD, on a short pass to Terry Jackson II. Adams’ 3-yard scoring run just before halftime made it 13-3, and his 23-yard pass to Cory Mitchell gave the Eagles a 20-3 early in the third quarter.

Jordan Canada answered that with a 38-yard scoring run, but it was pretty much too late for Montana. Adams worked underneath UM’s defense and kept it a two-score game throughout the second half.

It was the final game for UM coach Mick Delaney, who announced his impending retirement after the win at Southern Utah a few weeks prior.

“I know they’ve played some one-point games, but I feel we played them better than most people do,” Delaney said. “They didn’t do anything different. We probably, for whatever reason, maybe played a little bit tight today.”

Travon Van (nine catches, 161 yards and a touchdown) and Zack Wagenmann (three sacks, giving him 17.5 this season and 37.5 for his career) excelled in their final college games. Canada had 79 yards on just 11 rushes.

Delaney ended up 24-14 in three seasons as UM’s coach. The 2014 Griz went 9-5.

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