MISSOULA (AP) – For the past three weeks, even the most die-hard Montana football fans had questioned the Grizzlies’ lack of dominating wins.
Coach Bobby Hauck said the offense hadn’t been playing up to its potential and even pollsters knocked them down a few notches from No. 1, despite an unbeaten record.
Saturday, Cole Bergquist passed for 292 yards and a career-best four touchdowns and Lex Hilliard rushed for 112 yards and set the school’s career rushing touchdown record in a 52-7 win over Northern Colorado.
“Our emphasis this week was to have some fun and ignore anyone who doesn’t like what we’re doing,” Hauck said.
Montana (7-0, 4-0 Big Sky), ranked third in The Sports Network FCS poll, had 623 yards in total offense to 228 for Northern Colorado (0-8, 0-4).
“Our offensive coaches really had our team prepared today,” Hauck said “And it was a good job executing by the kids.”
Hilliard’s second touchdown, a 39-yard run with 13:55 left in the fourth quarter gave Montana a 45-0 lead and gave Hilliard the school career rushing touchdown record with 44, one more than Yohance Humphery had from 1998-2001.
“It feels good, especially coming off my injury last year,” said Hilliard, crediting the work of Montana’s offensive linemen. “But records will come and go. We’re more concerned with wins.”
Northern Colorado got its only touchdown with 9:59 remaining on a 31-yard pass from Dominic Breazeale to Clint Wright, who had three catches for 46 yards.
“I was a little disgruntled we gave up our shutout, especially since before the play we told them what was coming,” Hauck said.
Mike Ferriter caught a 15-yard TD pass in the first quarter, Ryan Bagley added a 12-yarder early in the second quarter and Marc Mariani caught a 27-yarder one-handed in the rain with 5:35 left in the half to give Montana a 21-0 lead.
“I just put my hand up,” Mariani said. “I knew I had to control it and I used the closest thing to me, which was my head.”
Hilliard’s first touchdown was a 1-yard run with 1:36 left in the half that gave Montana a 28-0 lead.
Dan Carpenter kicked a 50-yard field goal and Bagley caught a 2-yard TD pass from Bergquist with 4:08 left in the third to put the Griz up 38-0.
Backup quarterback Andrew Selle hit Greg Coleman on an 8-yard TD pass with 8:02 remaining to wrap up the scoring.
“There wasn’t anything they did that we hadn’t prepared for,” said UNC coach Scott Downing. “They were just able to execute and make plays.”
An interception by Craig Mettler returned 32 yards to the Northern Colorado 15 set up Bergquist’s first TD pass to Ferriter.
Bergquist was intercepted late in the first quarter by Max Hewitt who had a 73-yard return to the Montana 8. Kroy Biermann had a sack that helped keep the Hornets out of the end zone and then blocked their field goal attempt with 14:48 left in the half.
“We had an interception that was a great play,” Downing said. “I thought if we could get some points we could get back into the game, but we had a field goal blocked.”
Biermann finished with six tackles, three for a loss, and three sacks.
“Our defense has a lot of pride. They’re well coached,” Hauck said. “They take it personally when people move the ball on them.”
Bergquist completed 26 of 35 passes and rushed eight times for another 50 yards.
“We came out this week and we knew we had to improve,” Bergquist said. “We did it today. We had some big plays.”
Breazeale was 13-of-25 for 109 yards while Tyrone Wilson rushed nine times for 50 yards for the Bears.
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