Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Big Sky Notebook: Griz punt fake was timely

Daily Inter Lake | September 6, 2023 12:00 AM

The Montana Grizzlies offense was scuffling a little bit in the first quarter on what became a 35-20 win over Butler Saturday, in that with a 10-0 lead it had produced a tip-drill interception and a punt.

Add in a malfunctioning clock at Washington-Grizzly Stadium — the officials on the field were tasked with the timekeeping into the second quarter — and there was added frustration.

Then came the moment it was fourth-and-2 for the Griz, at their own 32.

That’s when the left punt protector, Havre’s Kellen Detrick, took a direct snap around the right side for a 19-yard gain. The play didn’t lead to a touchdown — Grant Glasnow hammered through a 49-yard field goal — but it seemed to let the offense find its footing.

“It was so odd with the clock not working. I actually didn’t realize it was fourth down,” Montana coach Bobby Hauck said. “I thought it was third down. They said, ‘Hey, it’s fourth down,’ so I ran down there, and (the fake call) kind of got on late, I think we snapped it with one second on the play clock.

“But that was my feeling — it’s something we want to do. We want to have some fun offensive stuff. Those guys are reliable, they got their blocks, and they got it checked to the right side. We took our slot guy in motion and got the numbers we wanted. So it was easy, and it was a big gain, obviously.”

And by the time Glasgow’s field goal sailed through the goalposts, the clocks were back on. It was 9:43 of the second quarter, and Montana led 13-3.

The win was secured by a couple late scoring drives led by No. 2 quarterback Clifton McDowell, who mostly ran (11 times for 81 yards) while starter Sam Vidlak mostly passed (25 times for 180). McDowell stands 6-foot-4 but was tough and elusive.

“We didn’t tackle very well,” Butler coach Mike Erumovich groused. “He’s a good player, he made us miss tackles for sure. Give him some credit too, because he’s a good player and they are a good offensive line. But I wasn’t happy with the way we tackled.”

Mostly Erumovich was happy with quarterback Bret Bushka, who seemed to get more accurate the more he threw off his back foot — and he threw off his back foot a lot. The one time he was pressured into a high throw the Bulldogs’ William Enneking made a spectacular one-handed grab.

“A great throw and a great catch will beat great defense every time,” Hauck said. “But they did make some circus catches.”

Anyone with one or more social media account has seen the play of the game from Montana State’s 63-20 win over Utah Tech in its season opener: Jared White’s 79-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The run was spectacular, but it’s just as fun to watch the guy who handed him the ball: No. 10, Sean Chambers. The Bobcats’ No. 2 quarterback made three blocks, and they were convincing.

“He was able to wipe out three guys,” MSU coach Brent Vigen said. “Probably the thing that I loved the most was once Jared scored, the joy that Sean showed for him in that play. Here’s a quarterback getting a handful of reps in this particular game, but he’s such a team guy.

“I know he can make an impact in a lot of ways, that just happened to be the one of the first times it was blocking.”

With the Trailblazers — more on them later — out of the way the Cats could focus on South Dakota State. A showed between the No. 1 Jackrabbits and No. 3 Bobcats kicks off in Brookings, South Dakota Saturday at 5 p.m.

It was a rematch of last week’s FCS semifinal, an ice bowl in Brookings that SDSU won 39-18.

“That game left its mark on us last December,” Vigen said Monday, in his weekly press conference. “At the same time I think we see in ourselves that same kind of potential. We knew walking off the field in December that we’d have another shot at them.”

Noting last year’s semifinal was a rematch up a 2021 semi that MSU won 31-17, he added: “We’ve got to have some sense of confidence too. It wasn’t too long ago that we did beat them.”

That 2021 game was in Bozeman. This one will be on the road, albeit in much better field conditions: The early forecast calls for a high of 76 with a good chance of showers Saturday.

Utah Tech’s loss in Bozeman dropped the former Dixie State Rebels to 0-13 against Big Sky Conference opponents, and 0-3 against MSU.

Now the Trailblazers — the nickname has changed twice, and the school adopted Utah Tech as its name this year, and if you wonder why, well, there’s Wikipedia page — play another Big Sky squad in the Grizzlies. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Saturday in St. George.

Hauck counts maybe two Griz who were on his team when Montana beat the Trailblazers 31-14 in 2021, the first year Utah Tech was Division I.

If that first win has been elusive, so has getting people to St. George. This will mark Utah Tech’s fourth home game against Big Sky competition; the Trailblazers will live up to their name by traveling over 15,000 miles for seven road games this season — including a game at Northern Arizona next week.

QUICK KICKS: Forecast calls for a high of 98 Saturday in St. George. … Utah Tech QB Kobe Tracy has 3,180 career passing yards, and sits 44 yards off No. 2 in school history. He also splits snaps with Boone Abbott. … Idaho’s Hayden Hawkins, Cal Poly’s Eli Ponder and Weber State kick returner Abraham Williams were the Big Sky players of the week for offense, defense and special teams. … MSU nominated RB Scottre Humphrey on offense. … Montana nominated RB Eli Gillman on offense, S Ryder Meyer on defense and Glasgow on special teams.