MISSOULA – Cole Bergquist made no bones about it.
“Today was all about revenge,” the Montana quarterback said Saturday.
Bergquist scampered 35 yards on fourth down for the game’s first touchdown and the Grizzlies avenged their lone setback of the season with a 24-13 win over Big Sky Conference co-champion Weber State in an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal game.
It was a far different outcome from the 49-35 defeat Weber State handed Montana in Ogden, Utah, on Oct. 4.
The victory propelled the fourth-seeded Grizzlies (13-1) into a semifinal game next weekend at top-seeded James Madison of Virginia (12-1), which nipped Villanova 31-27 on Saturday. James Madison beat Montana 31-21 for the 2004 national title.
Montana, making its record 16th straight playoff appearance, won for the ninth time in 10 quarterfinal contests dating back to 1989. The Grizzlies’ only second-round loss was at McNeese State in 2002.
Weber State (8-4), which beat Cal Poly on the road in the first round, was in the playoffs for the first time since 1987.
“It was a good win today over a good football team,” Montana coach Bobby Hauck said. “We’ve been in these playoffs every year and the team we beat today was as good as anybody we’ve played the last six years — and better than most.”
Chase Reynolds set a school season record for rushing touchdowns with his 18th and 19th, the last one from 12 yards out with 4:02 remaining to expand Montana’s tenuous four-point lead.
Reynolds finished with 185 rushing yards on 33 carries, the seventh consecutive game the sophomore from Drummond has topped 100 yards. Bergquist rushed for 68 yards and Andrew Schmidt another 61 as the Grizzlies rolled up 314 yards on the ground and outgained Weber State 427-386 overall.
Weber State got another electric performance from the Big Sky’s leading rusher, Trevyn Smith. He ran for 104 yards and a touchdown and caught seven passes for 129 yards. It was also the seventh consecutive 100-yard rushing game for the 210-pound junior from Springville, Utah.
Weber State fumbled the ball away in Montana territory on its first two possessions, and the Grizzlies turned both into touchdowns.
Quarterback Cameron Higgins, the Big Sky’s most valuable player on offense, lost his grip on the ball in the opening minutes while attempting a pass from the Montana 35. Craig Mettler recovered for the Griz.
On fourth and 5 from Weber State’s 35-yard line, Bergquist faked a handoff to Reynolds and sprinted up the middle for a Montana touchdown.
Cody Nakamura caught a third-down pass from Higgins on Weber State’s next possession but fumbled at the end of his run on the Grizzly 24. Shann Schillinger recovered for Montana, which launched a 10-play, 76-yard drive to go up 14-0 on Reynolds 2-yard run.
A 63-yard catch and run by Smith in the second quarter led to Smith’s 23rd touchdown of the season two plays later. His 2-yard run helped Weber State pull to 14-7.
The Wildcats got field goals of 32 and 22 yards from Jon Williams in the second half but couldn’t find the end zone again. Higgins finished 19-of-40 passing for 270 yards but no touchdowns. In Weber State’s October win over Montana, he passed for four touchdowns.
“Montana played better on the back end, in their secondary,” said Weber State coach Ron McBride. “They weren’t going to let us get the deep throw on them.”
It marked the eighth time in nine games Montana has held an opponent to one touchdown or less.
“Like I told the team last night, I’ve never seen a defense come this far,” Hauck said. “In August we weren’t very good on defense and now we are.”
The Grizzlies, who committed four turnovers on the rainy day in Ogden, had none on Saturday. Weber State turned the ball over three times.
Williams’s second field goal with 9:17 to play pulled Weber State to within 17-13. But Montana answered with another 10-play drive, this one keyed by a 14-yard scamper by Bergquist to the Wildcat 17 on third and 7.
“Cole has done a real good job of beating people with his feet all year long,” Hauck said of his senior quarterback.
Two plays later, Reynolds swept around the left side for the clinching touchdown from 12 yards out.
“We’re as good as anybody in Division I-AA right now,” McBride said. “We could easily win the national championship, and these guys (the Grizzlies) probably will. The winner of this game is probably going to win the national championship.”
“Ron’s been around a long time,” said Hauck. “That’s good he thinks that. I’d like nothing better than for him to be right.”
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