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Griz complete spring football campaign with another rout

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | April 18, 2021 1:30 AM

MISSOULA — The Montana Grizzlies’ spring football “season” lasted exactly two shellackings, ending with Saturday’s 48-7 runover of Portland State at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

The Grizzlies rode an improved run game to the win, which bookended nicely with last week’s 59-3 rout of Division II Central Washington. This time the victim was a Big Sky Conference foe that, with quarterback Davis Alexander leading the way, has the makings of a good team.

It was steamrolled on a sunny day in front of a small, but loud crowd, with Portland product Nick Ostmo rushing for three touchdowns.

Vikings’ coach Bruce Barnham still feels good about his team.

“I don’t think we’re that awful,” he said. “I really don’t.”

Griz coach Bobby Hauck feels even more so about his own squad.

“We had a couple goals this spring,” Hauck said after his team piled up 248 rushing yards and 511 overall. “The first one was to win, certainly. Second was to send a message that we have a good football team here in Missoula, at the University of Montana.

“I think that message has been sent. I like our team. I’m fired up about the next couple months getting ready for the fall, and I can’t wait until September.”

The Grizzlies led 27-0 at halftime, getting touchdown runs of 28 and 4 yards from freshman Xavier Harris and Cam Humphrey TD passes covering 54 yards to Gabe Sulser and 15 to Samuel Akem.

The offense was even more deadly in the third quarter: After turning the ball over on downs at the PSU 24, the Griz scored three straight touchdowns: Ostmo, a sophomore, had scoring runs covering 11, 6 and 8 yards.

The hiccups: Humphrey threw an end-zone interception one play after Malik Flowers blocked a PSU punt; and that turnover on downs came after Sulser had returned a punt 56 yards.

There were some unhappier times as well. One snap after Portland State’s Matieo Talalemotu double-moved his way to a 73-yard touchdown reception, Humphery took a shot to the head at the end of an 11-yard run.

A couple possessions later, UM first lost starting center AJ Forbes to a leg injury and then Harris when he took a helmet to the hip at the end of a 5-yard run.

Neither Humphrey, who threw for 239 yards, not Harris, who ran for 109, returned.

Montana still scored, calling 11 straight runs after Humphrey left, ending with Ostmo’s first TD. His third came after Harris exited.

In between, linebacker Jace Lewis set up Ostmo and the Griz first-and-goal with an interception and 20-yard return.

Ostmo ran 16 times for 85 yards, and the Grizzlies averaged 5.5 yards a carry.

“That’s awfully good,” Hauck said. “They ran hard; the front played great. The quarterbacks got us into the right checks. I thought Rose (Timm Rosenbach) and Brent (Pease) did a good job putting in checks and getting us into the right plays from the sideline.

“These two young guys did a nice job both today and last week. … and they took care of the ball really well. That was a physical game today. There was some great hitting out there and our running backs took care of the ball.”

Harris was again nifty, making one cut and breaking free on his 28-yarder, and added a 34-yarder as well. Ostmo tore off a 20-yarder in the first half.

“We emphasize being physical up front and trying to run through contact,” Ostmo said. “But it’s nice to get out in the open, too.”

The amiable Barnum had realistic expectations for Saturday and was effusive in his praise for Montana, especially its defense.

“I thought we’d get punched in the neck,” he said.

“I saw it live, you know? Their front seven will carry that team a long way. I’ve been in this conference many moons — and with that defense? The Griz are back.”

Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 758-4463 or at fneighbor@dailyinterlake.com.