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Griz offense plays sharp at scrimmage
Jeff Larson’s touchdown Saturday, in Montana’s second spring scrimmage, is worth reviewing.
Especially since Larson missed the best part of it.
On a balmy afternoon that was long on offensive highlights, the 12-yard scoring reception by Larson was among five rung up in front of 500 fans at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
It might have been the best, since the converted quarterback was bottled up at the 1 by the likes of linebackers Alex Shaw and Caleb McSurdy before the pile was pushed into the end zone.
“Just a spot route,” said Larson, a senior from Cut Bank. “Got right into the hole and (Andrew) Selle threw a good ball. Then I turned and I could see the goal line - I was at the 1 and really trying to get in.”
Then the lights went out.
“Next thing I know I’m turning like this and Bryce Carver comes in and puts his helmet right underneath my chin,” he said. “The only thing I could see was my chin strap, over my eyes. Then I just hear ‘em going, ‘Yeah, Lars!’ So I figured I’d scored.”
Carver, a sophomore from Dillon, had the first TD of the day, a 32-yard catch and run with a dart from Justin Roper. The offense had its second straight strong scrimmage: 488 total yards, including 343 through the air.
Mike Breske’s blitz-happy defense had its moments, applying pressure and getting sacks from first Ryan Fetherston and then Bobby Alt. Freshman safety Brooks Nuanez had a pair of interceptions, and was one of five Griz to break up a pass.
The offense had three rough series, then several strong drives.
“It was a little bit of a slow start,” said Selle, who completed 13 of 23 passes for 157 yards. “The defense came out very intense. A lot of pressure. I felt like I was throwing off my back foot a lot.”
Selle completed just two of his first eight passes but then hit his next eight, including four to Sam Gratton to highlight a 79-yard march. That drive was capped by Peter Nguyen’s short scoring run.
After D.J. Zapata took a couple series, Selle came back and marched the Griz 66 yards to Larson’s TD. The drive was helped along by a pass interference call and a 20-yard Larson reception.
On the next offensive series Roper guided a 59-yard drive that the Oregon transfer QB started with a 16-yard burst and capped with a 3-yard scoring run.
Toward the end, as UM’s offense worked on a short field, Dan Moore tore off a 30-yard scoring run. The Griz ran for 146 yards, including end-around runs of 16 and 17 yards by Jabin Sambrano.
To cap the offensive afternoon Brody McKnight went 5-for-5 on field goal attempts.
Roper was 12 for 22 for 177 yards, though he was intercepted once. Both he and Selle had some funky throws, and first-year coach Robin Pflugrad noticed.
“I thought some of the big plays we made were extremely impressive, but we had trouble sustaining very many drives,” said Pflugrad. “I think our quarterbacks need to make better decisions as far as ball security, because we threw some stupid passes today.”
Fetherston had four tackles to lead the defense, which also saw safety Mike McCord make five stops. Josh Harris, a defensive end from Kalispell, had a pair of tackles and knocked down a pass.
“Personally I don’t think it was my best day,” said Harris, a 231-pound sophomore. “I made a mistake, a major one at the end that cost us a touchdown (by Moore).
“At this point we’re a young defense. Everybody’s playing like a veteran right now, but at this point of the spring we’ve got a long ways to go.”
Numbers generally don’t deceive, and the offense won the day. Moore probably had the hit of the game, taking on Fetherston at the end of a 4-yard run late in the scrimmage.
The blitzes didn’t affect much as the day wore on.
“You know the O-line did well,” said Selle. “They’re picking it up. Coach Breske likes to pressure and they did a good job picking it up.”
Ten receivers caught passes, including Moore, who caught a 9-yard strike from Larson on a faked field goal. Larson had been shaken up a few plays before, but trotted back out to hold.
“I got a little beat up and took out, and then they called the fake,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Guess I’m going back in.’ “
A post-scrimmage sack race capped the afternoon festivities.
Larson was all smiles.
“All the coaches try to keep it fun,” he said. “If you have fun out here it makes it that much easier to come out and do your job. Just so you’re not just running, getting tired and getting sick of each other. It’s nice to have a little fun out here.”
RUSHING (26-145) - Dan Moore 5-42, Jabin Sambrano 2-33, Justin Roper 5-29, Andrew Selle 3-18, Tel Reynolds 3-18, Peter Nguyen 6-6, Lance Carl 5-1.
PASSING (26-52-2 for 344 yards) - Roper 12-22-1 for 177 yards; Selle 13-23-0 for 157 yards; D.J. Zapata 0-6-1 for 0 yards; Jeff Larson 1-1-0 for 9 yards.
RECEIVING - Sambrano 5-63, Levi Buckles 5-55, Bryce Carver 4-81, Sam Gratton 4-54, Larson 2-32, Cam Warren 2-14, Bobby Hirsch 1-21, Greg Hardy 1-15, Moore 1-9, Nguyen 1-minus 1.
Bryce Carver 29 pass from Justin Roper (Brody McKnight kick)
McKnight 30 FG
McKnight 45 FG
McKnight 41 FG
Peter Nguyen 1 run (kick failed)
Jeff Larson 12 pass from Andrew Selle (Russell Schey kick)
Roper 3 run (McKnight kick)
McKnight 24 FG
Dan Moore 30 run (Schey kick)
McKnight 33 FG
By Fritz Neighbor