MISSOULA (AP) — Nothing has come easy for Montana this season. But on Saturday, the Grizzlies made it look simple, handing Idaho State a 70-24 beating.
"We've had some tough (times), lost some tough football games decided in the last quarter, the last couple minutes," said Montana coach Mick Delaney. "But our young guys are learning faster and faster because they see how hard the veterans work."
Montana (4-5, 2-4 Big Sky), which hasn't had a losing season since 1985, entered the game having dropped four of its past five games and with only one win in conference play. Saturday's contest, though, was never in doubt.
Shay Smithwick-Hann, making his first collegiate start, threw three touchdown passes to pace Montana. Smithwick-Hann was 14-of -21 for 205 yards, with two interceptions. Joey Counts and Brett Kirschner each scored twice as seven different Montana players found the end zone.
Montana scored on its first two possessions of the game with a 9-yard Jordan Canada run and a 17-yard pass from Smithwick-Hann to Sam Gratton. The Grizzlies continued to roll through the first half, scoring four more touchdowns, including a 50-yard run by Peter Nguyen and an 80-yard fumble return by Jordan Tripp, to take a 42-10 halftime lead.
Montana racked up 605 yards of total offense and ran for 379 yards. Nguyen led all rushers with 107 yards.
"Our biggest issue defensively has been the run game, and we couldn't slow them down today," said Idaho State associate head coach Don Bailey, who filled in while Mike Kramer served a one-game suspension.
In the second half, the Grizzlies added three more third-quarter touchdowns before turning to reserve players for the final quarter.
Kevin Yost was 36-of-56 for 323 yards and three scores for the Bengals (1-7, 0-5), and Rodrick Rumble led all receivers with 102 yards.
Delaney lauded the play of his defense.
"All around on defense, we played very well," Delaney said. "It's a little easier to cover when you get pressure on the quarterback."
The Grizzlies recorded six sacks, including four from freshman defensive end Tyrone Holmes.
The Griz go back out on the road Saturday to face Weber State in Ogden, Utah.
Cats 55, North Dakota 10
BOZEMAN (AP) — Cody Kirk ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns and Montana State amassed a school-record 695 yards of total offense en route to a 55-10 win over North Dakota on Saturday.
The No. 5 Bobcats (7-1, 4-1 Big Sky) held North Dakota quarterback Braden Hanson to 165 yards passing a week after he threw for 660 yards against Montana.
Montana State was coming off a demoralizing 27-24 loss to Eastern Washington in which it gave up touchdowns on an interception and a blocked punt. The Bobcats had also committed 11 turnovers in their previous three games, but had none against North Dakota.
"What fixed the turnovers was the loss," Montana State coach Rob Ash said. "We now have an urgency to protect the ball. We asked our players, 'Do you want to be that guy?' meaning that guy that makes the big mistake and lets everyone down.
"Nobody wanted to be that guy."
Montana State scored touchdowns on four of its first six possessions to take a 28-7 halftime lead. Denarius McGhee was 16 of 19 for 185 yards and a touchdown in the first half and finished the game 24 of 32 for 259 yards and three touchdowns. McGhee has now thrown a touchdown pass in 33 straight games.
The Bobcats ran for 436 yards as Orenzo Davis nearly matched Kirk with 145 yards. Jon Ellis caught seven passes for 49 yards and a touchdown.
North Dakota (4-5, 2-4) was held to just 15 yards rushing and 180 total yards.
Hanson finished 15-of -26 for 165 yards and a touchdown a week after setting the Big Sky Conference record with 660 yards. Receiver Greg Hardin had three receptions for 45 yards one week after setting the Big Sky mark with 333 yards.
"We knew they would come in confident from last week," Montana State captain and linebacker Jody Owens said. "That motivated us and I just told our guys to go in and focus and we'll be fine."
North Dakota was led by Kenny Golladay, who had four receptions for 83 yards, including a 60-yarder to set up its lone touchdown.
The Bobcats will go on the road this Saturday to take on the upstart Sacramento State Hornets.