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Griz lose to Hornets, possibly Sneed too

Cat-Griz Report: Sacramento State demolishes Montana; Griz QB leaves game early

 

October 21, 2019

406 Sports

Montana quarterback Dalton Sneed, right, tries to escape a tackle from Sacramento State Saturday night in Sacramento, California. Not only were the Grizzlies blasted by the Hornets, but Sneed had to leave the game with what appeared to be a serious leg injury. Montana now comes home to host Eastern Washington Saturday afternoon.

Sacramento, Calif., — In the FCS Game of the Week, the Montana Grizzlies couldn't match the firepower and energy of an upstart Sacramento State team. The Hornets defeated their third straight ranked opponent, knocking off No. 5 Montana 49-22 in the Homecoming game at perhaps the biggest game in Hornet Stadium history.

The No. 15 Hornets dominated both sides of the ball en route to the big win, as Montana returned from the bye week with a rusty performance. The Grizzlies fall to 5-2 (2-1 in Big Sky play) with the loss, while Sacramento State improves to 3-0 in the Big Sky to share the conference lead with Weber State.

"Ultimately, disappointment is the word," Head Coach Bobby Hauck said following the game. "This was the Super Bowl to our opponent tonight and they won it. They got after us. They beat us on offense, they beat us on defense and ultimately I have to look in the mirror and say how do we get our team ready to play across the board so we can compete against a team like that."

Kevin Thomson won the battle between two of the best quarterbacks in the Big Sky, scoring five total touchdowns and accounting for over 400 yards of total offense. The Grizzly defense forced a pair of fumbles, but struggled to slow down a high powered offense. The Hornets had nearly 400 yards at halftime, building a lead and then managing the clock well. Sacramento State had nearly 40 minutes of possession in the game.

Sacramento State outgained Montana 561-391 and had 31 first downs. Montana came into the game averaging 29 first downs a game, but were limited to just 15 on Saturday. The Hornets also ran nearly 20 more plays than Montana.

On the other side, the Hornet defense never allowed Sneed and company to get comfortable. The Grizzly quarterback finished with just 140 passing yards and two interceptions before being injured late in the third quarter. The ground game that led to Montana's victory against Sacramento State in 2018 also couldn't get going, as the Griz ran for 146 yards. Jerry Louie-McGee's 64-yard touchdown rush on the fourth play of the game accounted for a large portion of that total.

Marcus Knight and Sneed also had rushing touchdowns for the Grizzlies. The sophomore running back averaged over five yards a carry, but an early deficit didn't allow him many chances as he had just 11 carries for 61 yards.

The linebacking duo of Jace Lewis and Dante Olson did their best to slow Sacramento State down, finishing with 17 and 16 tackles, respectively. Olson also forced a fumble. Robby Hauck also had double-digit tackles, but the Grizzlies forced just two Sacramento State punts on the night. Alex Gubner had his second career interception.

The Grizzlies threw two interceptions and were turned over on downs three times as well, as it seemed all of the big plays on the night went in favor of the hosts. Montana's defense was able to force a couple of fumbles and pick off Thomson once.

It was an uncharacteristic game across the board for the Grizzlies, as they committed 11 more penalties than the Hornets. They also struggled on third down (4-of-15), while Sacramento State converted nearly 50 percent of their third down attempts.

Cam Humphrey led a couple of nice drives in injury relief, throwing for 105 yards in just a quarter of play. Unfortunately for Montana on Saturday night, the hosts put together a great game plan and executed with several highlight reel plays, taking momentum early and running with it all night.

"They made some plays that were pretty special," Hauck said of Sacramento State. "They did some really good things, even the touchdown Kevin Thomson had rushing, both our starting linebackers met him in the backfield and knocked each other off of him and he ran for the score. It was that kind of night, and I hate saying that because we don't ever want to have that kind of night, but it was."

Montana won the toss, and elected to receive. A major story coming into the game was Sacramento State's dominance in the first quarter, paired with Montana's susceptibility to slow starts. The Griz attempted to flip that script, as Jerry Louie-McGee took a handoff in the backfield and went 64 yards up the sidelines, scoring on just the fourth offensive play of the game.

Sacramento State didn't let the quick score faze them. The Hornets marched 75 yards in just five plays, scoring on a long pass and taking the lead on a successful two-point conversion after just three minutes of game time.

Sneed was picked off on the next drive, and the Hornets turned that into a field goal for an 11-7 lead. The Hornets got the ball back again and drove for a touchdown, as Kevin Thomson kept it on a read option and scored with his feet, giving the hosts an 18-7 lead with 3:20 to go in the first.

After the Montana offense had a quick three-and-out, they needed some help from the defense to turn the momentum of the game. And when you need a big play, it is good to have a guy like Olson on your team. The linebacker forced a Hornet fumble, giving the ball back to the Griz near midfield.

Montana faced a 3rd-and-14 on the final play of the quarter, and the Grizzlies picked up a much needed first down on an incredible connection between Sneed and Louie-McGee. Marcus Knight carried three straight times to bring the ball into the red zone, then Sneed went to the house on a 19-yard rush. The Griz went for two out of a unique formation, and Mitch Roberts passed complete to long snapper Matthew O'Donoghue to cut the lead to 18-15.

The efficient Sacramento State offense continued an impressive half on the next two drives, adding on a field goal and a touchdown to take a 28-15 lead late in the second quarter. As the offense continued to struggle, the Griz defense came up with a huge stop, forcing the first Hornet punt of the game with 1:23 left in the half.

But a deep pass bounced out of the hands of a Grizzly receiver and was intercepted, setting the Hornets up with another scoring chance. They took advantage, scoring on a 40-yard pass to take the 35-15 halftime lead.

The Hornets received the ball coming out of the half and scored on a six-plus minute drive to take a 42-15 lead. On the next Hornet drive, Montana's defense forced a fumble and got the ball back in Sacramento State territory. Knight then cut into the Hornet lead with a 32-yard touchdown run, making it 42-22.

Sacramento State scored again on its next drive, going for it on fourth down and converting with a 39-yard touchdown pass up the sideline to take a 49-22 lead and essentially end the game. The Grizzlies moved the ball well on the next drive but couldn't convert on fourth down, giving the ball back to Sac St. Montana's defense was able to force another turnover, as a pass tipped at the line was intercepted by Alex Gubner.

The Grizzlies' first loss in Big Sky play was crushing, but, with a daunting schedule upcoming, the loss of Sneed could be even more crushing.

Sneed finished the game on the sidelines on a pair of crutches, and Hauck said he didn't know what Sneed's status would be.

"We've got a big, big game coming next weekend with Eastern coming to town," Hauck said.

Montana State, which had a bye this week, travels to North Dakota Saturday.

Editor's Note: Havre Daily News sports editor George Ferguson contributed to this story.

 

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