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Cat-Griz Report: Griz win big but lose star quarterback for the season


September 18, 2017

AP Photo

Montana quarterback Gresch Jensen rolls out during Saturday's FCS football game between the Grizzlies and Savannah State Tigers in Missoula. The Grizzlies won 56-3, but, starting quarterback Reese Phillips was lost with a severe leg injury early in the game. Both Montana and Montana State open Big Sky Conference play this Saturday.

An easy win also turned into a nightmare scenario for the Montana Grizzlies. Montana walloped Savannah State 56-3 on Saturday, but the Griz appear to have lost senior quarterback Reese Phillips for the season.

Red-shirt freshman quarterback Gresch Jensen was called into duty after Phillips suffered a leg injury while scrambling on a broken play and had to be carted off the field. Jensen, a redshirt freshman, completed 11 of 15 passes in relief, finding Keenan Curran for a pair of scores and Samari Toure for another.

Phillips had completed his first 13 passes for 148 yards before the injury.

"It breaks my heart and I know it does for everybody else in our football program," Montana coach Bob Stitt said. "That's very tough mentally when you see one of your brothers go down and have to line right back up and go."

Alijah Lee rushed for the first two touchdowns of the game, finishing with 10 carries for 74 yards. The Griz (2-1) piled up 561 yards of total offense and scored at least one TD in every quarter.

Jensen scored his first career touchdown on his second series.

"Gresch did a nice job of running what we do," Stitt said. "But he also had some nice checks in there. He was aggressive on the 1-yard line and that was not the play call and he did a nice job of that. He did a couple times where he got us into something nice and put the ball where it needed to go."

TJ Bell went 9-for-19 for 142 yards, for Savannah State (0-2) but was intercepted twice, once by Josh Buss and another by Ryan McKinley for a pick 6. The Grizzlies combined for eight sacks and 15 tackles for loss against Savannah State's quarterbacks. James Banks led Montana with 10 total tackles and Buss paced the Griz with two sacks for a loss of 27 yards.

And while the Griz cruised in their final non-conference game, and look forward to playing Big Sky rival Eastern Washington under the lights of Washington Grizzly Stadium Saturday night, their immediate thought's were with Phillips, who transferred to UM from the University of Kentucky, where he had overcame a torn Achilles tendon back in 2015. He also sat behind senior Brady Gustafson a year ago, preparing for his one season to be the Griz' starting quartback.

"Reese is one of my brothers," linebacker Josh Buss said. "This is the tightest knit group I've ever been on. I'm sure everyone else can say the same thing. It's not offense, defense, I have best friends on offense, best friends on defense. You see him go down, it hurts not just him, it hurts everyone. It makes everyone want to play for him."

Montana will host EWU this Saturday at 6 p.m. in Missoula. Montana State, which had a bye this past week, opens league play at defending Big Sky champion North Dakota Saturday afternoon.


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