Grizzlies pounce on WSU’s early mistakes

Brandon May

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Ty Macpherson scored his third career touchdown against Montana (Israel Campa / The Signpost) Photo credit: Israel Campa

The highly anticipated matchup between two top-five teams kicked off at Washington-Grizzly Stadium on the campus of the University of Montana. The Montana Grizzlies jumped out early over Weber State University and cruised to a 35–16 win in front of 22,682.

As the teams jogged out for the opening kickoff, the Grizzly faithful made it clear it was going to be a hostile environment, and it was going to be loud all game.

“We played the worst game we have in three years,” head coach Jay Hill said. “Montana played a great game today; that’s the best I’ve seen them play.”

After a few early mistakes on special teams and a 32-yard field goal by junior kicker Trey Tuttle, the Wildcats’ were down early in the second quarter 21–3.

Freshman long snapper Josh Carter rolled two snaps back to senior punter Doug Lloyd, and Montana had great field position on two of their opening drives.

Weber State couldn’t seem to get anything going on the offensive side of the ball, averaging just 1.9 yards per rush.

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Kevin Smith Jr makes a big run to get the 1st down (Israel Campa / The Signpost) Photo credit: Israel Campa

“Montana’s been good against the run all year,” Hill said. “I thought we should have opened up the game a little bit more keeping them honest with some throws. But when you lose Devon Cooley and Rashid Shaheed early, it affects you.”

The ’Cats offense was down early. Sophomore receiver Devon Cooley went down on the first drive, and it went downhill from there.

Following Cooley’s injury, junior quarterback Jake Constantine went down with a lower-body injury, sophomore receiver Justin Malone crutched off with an ankle injury and junior receiver Rashid Shaheed was carted off with a MCL injury.

Sophomore running back Josh Davis was limited to just nine carries for 27 yards and did not play the entire second half after an injury sustained last weekend against North Dakota.

“We lost three of the best players in the league (Cooley, Davis and Shaheed),” Hill said. “Gotta give Montana credit; they were knowing guys out, and that’s football.”

Malone and Constantine went down with their injuries in the fourth quarter.

“Constantine got dinged up; he’ll get back, Malone is also a big injury,” Hill said. “That’s five starters, but that’s part of football.”

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Ty Macpherson scored his first career touchdown against Montana (Israel Campa / The Signpost) Photo credit: Israel Campa

Sophomore quarterback Kaden Jenks found sophomore receiver Ty MacPherson and redshirt freshman receiver Jon Christensen in the back of the end zone late in the fourth quarter. Christensen’s touchdown was his first collegiate catch.

The Wildcats fell 35–16, falling to 6-1 in the Big Sky and entered the final week of the regular season tied for first place with Montana and Sacramento State.

The Grizzlies will take on their main rival the Montana State Bobcats in Bozeman and Sacramento State takes on UC Davis in Sacramento.

The Wildcats end the regular season at home with Idaho State.

“I told our players ‘You can’t let Montana beat us twice,’” Hill said. “If we get a victory next week, we are still in the driver’s seat and control our own destiny.”s

The ’Cats with a win over the Bengals would secure the Conference Championship for the third straight year and will likely have a first round bye for the FCS Playoffs.

Editor’s Note: The initial version of this story stated that Ty Macpherson scored his first touchdown against Montana. He actually scored his third touchdown in the game, and the story has been updated to reflect this information.