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Jacks Shellacked: Griz force 10 turnovers in rout of SFA
Ten turnovers is amazing, 91 straight playoff points astounding, but the most impressive thing about Montana’s 51-0 beating of Stephen F. Austin was that the top offense in the FCS came to town and couldn’t do Jack.
Junior defensive tackle Tyler Hobbs spearheaded the third-ranked Grizzlies’ defense, which came up with five Lumberjack fumbles and five interceptions and made their Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal victory surprisingly easy.
Montana, 13-0 and the top seed in the playoffs, will find out early Sunday afternoon whether its nationally televised semifinal game against No. 5 Appalachian State is Friday night or Saturday afternoon. The Mountaineers ousted Richmond 35-31 Saturday.
App State’s Armanti Edwards won’t make it any easier for the Griz, but they have to take a lot of confidence from blanking the nation’s top-scoring team.
“The defense played with its hair on fire,” said Hobbs, a 265-pounder who recovered a fumble, forced another and intercepted a Jeremy Moses pass in the second quarter while UM built a 38-0 lead. “We knew they were fast and athletic. We had to fly around, get to the football and get our motors going.
“Everyone was in pursuit, doing their jobs, and they kind of gift-wrapped a couple of them to us.”
Moses, SFA’s junior quarterback, was the main contributor. He started off by hitting Aaron Rhea for a 41-yard catch and run on the game’s third snap.
On the next play he tried to find Rhea again, but UM strong safety Erik Stoll cut in front for an interception at the Grizzlies’ 11.
And so it went. Moses’ eighth pass, to Graylin Crawford dragging underneath, was picked off by Austin Mullins, who like Hobbs is a defensive tackle. That set up UM’s first points, a 34-yard field goal by Brody McKnight.
Before the first quarter ended, a punt glanced off return man Duane Brooks, and UM’s Shann Schillinger won a scramble for the ball; and a screen pass to Romonte Hampton ended in a fumble at the Griz 1-yard line, on hits by Alex Shaw and Brandon Fisher.
The Griz cashed in the first for the first of Chase Reynolds’ two touchdown runs; after the second turnover they drove 98 yards in 14 plays.
Andrew Selle, the leading beneficiary of SFA’s largess with 281 yards and three TDs passing, capped that march with a 4-yard scoring run, the first of his collegiate career. Montana led 17-0 with 12:24 left in the second quarter.
The lead grew to 24-0 two plays after Severin Campbell stripped the ball from Moses, and Hobbs recovered at the SFA 14. Selle hit Marc Mariani for 14 yards and a touchdown at the 11:27 mark.
Selle threw two more scoring passes in the final 2:07 of the half, to Jabin Sambrano and Steven Pfahler covering 13 and 11 yards.
Sambrano’s score came after Hobbs - who recovered another fumble in the third quarter - popped the ball loose from Vincent Pervis. Josh Stuberg recovered the Jacks’ seventh turnover of the half.
Pfahler scored at the end of a 59-yard, 40-second drive reminiscent of last week’s 61-48 comeback win over South Dakota State. The Griz led 38-0 with 9 seconds left before intermission.
“Obviously stuff rolls over from game to game,” said Selle. “I was coming into the game trying not to force things and just taking what they gave me. It worked well last week.
“I was taking the small routes and they ended up making big plays.”
The outcome could’ve been worse. McKnight just missed on one of his four field goal attempts, and the Griz faked another, with McKnight drawing a facemask penalty trying to stiff-arm his way to a first down.
There weren’t many low points for the Griz, who clogged the passing lanes rather than chase the quick-throwing Moses. The subdivision’s most prolific passer finished with just 204 passing yards - 130 in the first quarter - and four interceptions.
“They dropped guys out of the defensive line,” said the 6-foot QB. “I’m short and it’s tough for me to see that.
“I’ve seen a couple of teams do it, but it just seemed like every time they dropped a guy it was in the exact spot that we didn’t need them to.”
Montana’s lone turnover was a fumble by Thomas Brooks-Fletcher, who looked banged-up and left with 89 rushing yards.
Schillinger had Moses’ fourth pick; SFA sent in Dalton Williams after that and he had a fumble and interception as well.
“I wish I could figure it out,” SFA coach J.C. Harper said. “Montana had a lot to do with that. Their players play tremendously hard.”
“We emphasize ball security 365 days a year around here,” said Schillinger. “Coach (Kraig) Paulson had a couple of great calls. Our tackles were out there dropping. It was a huge factor in the game.
“You get one and it gets contagious. You get another and everyone is excited and emotions are high.”
Jacks shellacked: Griz force 10 turnovers in rout of SFA
By FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian