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Though Montana's spring practices began more than a month ago, the Grizzlies' offense was still in hibernation mode for their first scrimmage last week.

On Friday, somebody finally woke up the bear.

"The offense, we took it personal," quarterback Reese Phillips said. "We weren't very good last week and we took that to heart."

What a difference a week makes. Phillips marched the first-string offense down the field for touchdowns twice to open Friday's second spring football scrimmage and the Griz offense scored 27 points in its great awakening.

The offense, run by a combination of Phillips and second-stringers Gresch Jensen and Caleb Hill, churned out 452 yards in all with 301 coming through the air.

"It felt better on offense, coming out and moving the ball," Griz head coach Bob Stitt said. "It felt like Reese had control of things and doing the things that we know he can do. He's a senior and he played like a senior today."

Though senior defensive end Tucker Schye sacked Phillips twice on the opening drive, the QB always had an answer. He scrambled for a first down, then hit junior Keenan Curran with a rocket over the middle into the red zone. Phillips capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Justin Calhoun in the back right corner of the end zone.

The TD was his first this spring after passing for just 57 yards with a pick in the opening scrimmage last Friday. And boy did it feel good.

"That's how it should be every time," said Phillips, who finished 13 of 18 passing for 140 yards. "That's what you expect, to go up and down the field. Our defense is good, but we're also good."

After Hill and the second-string cashed in with a 37-yard Tim Semenza field goal, Phillips made good on his second attempt as well. On fourth-and-4 near midfield, Phillips went for it all and found Calhoun for another score.

The sophomore put a dirty head fake on senior cornerback Ryan McKinley to spring himself free behind the coverage and Phillips put the ball on the money.

"We worked on the top of our routes, just getting in and out of breaks. Double moves we added in this week," Calhoun said of the week's practices leading into the second scrimmage. "We can't just do the same thing or they start jumping the routes."

Calhoun's 66 receiving yards led all 11 Grizzlies who caught passes. He did it on three grabs. Curran had five for 46 yards and sophomore Jerry Louie-McGee caught six for 35.


While Phillips shined brightest, Hill had himself a day as well. He completed 14 of 17 attempts for 100 yards even and one touchdown, a 12-yarder to redshirt freshman Brennan Corbin.

The junior led three scoring drives in all with two ending in Semenza field goals.

The Grizzly ground game had its own spring breakout with three UM backs combining for 143 on 23 carries. Senior Treshawn Favors had 77, though his biggest highlight came on a 5-yard screen play in which he collapsed the first defender by lowering his head with a crushing blow.

Redshirt freshman Rey Green went for 34 yards while running with the first-string.

It wasn't all positive for the offense. After a stellar first outing that included two scores, Jensen struggled while taking snaps against the first-string defense. He threw for just 61 yards on 8 of 18 passing and the defense picked him off three times.

Junior Markell Sanders halted the offense's early momentum with a tipped-ball interception midway through the scrimmage. The lengthy cornerback batted a pass meant for senior receiver Makena Simis back to himself before heading the other direction for extra yardage.

"No matter what the offense is doing, we still have our duty to take the ball away," Sanders said. "You go out there and try and win on every play."

Senior Korey Alexander's interception of Jensen went back 38 yards for a touchdown and ended the scrimmage.

Redshirt freshman Dareon Nash also had a pick, walk-on freshman linebacker Hunter McKenzie led the team with nine tackles, and Schye and redshirt freshman DE Randy Rodriguez combined for five sacks.

The scrimmage had balance with highlights on both sides, and that's what Stitt wants to see during the spring. When the offense scored, they had to work for it. Only the one long pass play to Calhoun broke through on Friday.

That's been a point of emphasis after issues on that front in 2016.

"We're not gonna do that this year," Stitt began. "They're gonna have to have a 10-, 12-, 14-play drive to get points out of it. ... We're mixing in a lot more zone where (defensive backs) can see the quarterback and break on the ball."

UM has one more week of fine tuning as spring drills conclude next Saturday with the annual Grizzly Spring Game in Butte. Kickoff at Naranche Stadium is scheduled at 1 p.m.

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