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Pflugrad works Montana Grizzlies hard in second scrimmage
Grizzly football fine tunes itself through another scrimmage Saturday morning at Washington-Griz
It wasn’t all full speed ahead for either Montana’s offense or the Grizzlies’ defense, but Saturday’s scrimmage was long enough to see a little of everything.
“We set out to go about 65, maybe 70 plays,” first-year Griz coach Robin Pflugrad said. “And I think we went over 100. I got a little zealous and fired up, but I really wanted to see more players play.”
Just about everybody got in, in front of roughly 500 fans at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Fifty-one passes were thrown and 93 plays run, not counting special teams.
“A 100-play scrimmage, 12 days straight,” noted quarterback Andrew Selle, who threw an early pick-six to Trumaine Johnson - it appeared Selle and his receiver weren’t on the same page - but settled down to throw for 98 yards and a score. “That shows, with our conditioning program and everything that our guys are in shape.
“I didn’t see a lot of guys slacking. I was really happy with the effort today.”
Two weeks ahead of their season opener, Sept. 4 at home against Division II Western State, the Griz threw five quarterbacks out there and one new running back: Gerald Kemp, a quarterback who made the switch this week.
Kemp carried five times and caught three passes, including a shovel from Selle that went for 12 yards and a touchdown.
“It was fun,” said the third-year sophomore. “It’s just another opportunity to get on the field and help my team out. I’ve got a lot to learn you know, there’s always room for improvement, but it was fun.”
Selle was 10 for 18, including a 24-yard throw to Chase Reynolds to beat an early blitz. Reynolds, who had one carry, soon gave way to Jordan Canada, Peter Nguyen (18 yards, including a 2-yard scoring run) and Kemp, who last played running back…
“Never,” said the 215-pounder, smiling. “Back in flag football, maybe. Second grade, third grade.
“We wanted to see how the quarterback situation was working out and we had a few (running backs) go down, and we’re not necessarily real deep there.
“I feel like I can help the team out wherever the need be.”
“It just goes to show you what kind of guy Gerald is,” said Selle. “Obviously he’s putting the team first and wants to help out as much as he can.
“It also shows a lot of courage and toughness to go from playing quarterback your whole life to playing running back.”
The corps of quarterbacks is deep, with senior Justin Roper going 11 for 18 for 102 yards, including a 20-yard scoring strike to JC transfer C.J. Atkins. Then true freshman Jordan Johnson came in and hit Levi Buckles for 40 yards against a blitz.
Johnson ended the day 6 for 6 for 87 yards, including a 4-yard TD pass to tight end Robert Overton.
“Jordan’s going to be a heck of a player,” said defensive tackle Tyler Hobbs, who saw Johnson lead a 13-play, 70-yard scoring drive. “He’s light on his feet. Even when our D-line does break through to get pressure on him, he’s tough to bring down. We’re obviously going ‘thud’ on him, and tagging the hip, but sometimes we think we’ve got him, but I don’t know if we really did.”
Ahead of his TD pass, Johnson ran an option keeper from the 7-yard line, and linebacker Josh Stuberg was credited with a tackle at the 4. It’s hard to say how the play would’ve turned two weeks from now.
Stuberg, a sophomore, and fellow linebacker John Kanangata’a each had five tackles for a defense that had something dialed up every down.
“It was back and forth,” said Hobbs. “We did some line games and sometimes when the D-line is moving and twisting, it can look like we’re bringing the heat but we’re not. We were conservative sometimes, we brought the heat sometimes.”
The Grizzlies threw for 309 yards and ran for 75. The rushing total was hurt by a forgettable series in which Bobby Alt (twice) and Jordan Tripp sacked Selle for a total of 25 yards in losses.
Pflugrad tempered his enthusiasm with a critique of some late two-minute drills, a couple blocked field goals and other issues.
“Our defense jumped offside too many times, our offense had huddle issues, we played with 12 guys one time and got called for it,” Pflugrad began. “Sideline management was a little bit better than last week, but not anywhere where it needs to be.
“I think we even got a penalty on the bench. We hope some of that gets out of the bloodstream and it doesn’t happen two weeks from today.”
Hobbs had one of those offsides, against freshman tackle Danny Kistler.
“Kistler moved,” Hobbs asserted. “The offense always moves, right? He was rocking back on his heels.”
“I did. Can’t lie,” he said. “But he came across, too, and they called it.”
The Griz, ranked No. 2 in the Football Championship Subdivision in the preseason poll, have Sunday off.
“We’ve been working all camp to put it all together in a game situation,” said Hobbs, who had four stops on Saturday. “We just need to keep going. We had a few errors here and there. We need to tighten up the loose screws. We’re almost there. It’s just a few things.”
The Griz have their final scrimmage set for 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, with the “Great Grizzly Encounter” later that evening at Caras Park.
QUICK KICKS: CB Houston Roots had six tackles and a pass breakup for the defense. … DT Alex Bienemann forced a fumble that the offense recovered. … DT Tyrone Duncan and CB Sean Murray each had four tackles. … CB Jimmy Wilson and CB Marlin Miles each blocked field goal attempts by Brody McKnight, who hit from 42 and 47 yards at the end of the scrimmage. … “We’ve got to stop the bull rush technique and we didn’t do a real good job of that,” Pflugrad said of the special teams problems. “That’s obviously something to address - as early as this afternoon.” … CB Brandon Dodson, LB Alex Shaw and SS Houston Stockton also broke up passes.
RUSHING (42-75) - Jordan Canada 9-18, Peter Nguyen 8-14, Jordan Johnson 4-11, Justin Roper 3-8, Gerald Kemp 5-8, Chase Reynolds 1-4, Jake Raynock 4-3, Andrew Selle 8-minus 9.
PASSING (30-51-1 for 309 yards) - Andrew Selle 10-18-1 for 98 yards, Justin Roper 11-18-0 for 102 yards, Jordan Johnson 6-6-0 for 87 yards, Shay Smithwick-Hann 3-6-0 for 22 yards, D.J. Zapata 0-3-0 for 0 yards.
RECEIVING - Bryce Carver 5-37, Robert Overton 4-45, Levi Buckles 3-70, Mitch Saylor 3-30, Gerald Kemp 3-21, C.J. Atkins 2-31, Cam Warren 2-14, Peter Nguyen 2-10, Jabin Sambrano 2-17, Sean Haynes 2-7, Chase Reynolds 1-24, Jordan Canada 1-7, Antwon Moutra 1-3.
By FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian