MISSOULA – What a difference a week makes.
Last week, Montana turned the ball over four times and was forced to rally from a 48-14 deficit to down South Dakota State, 61-48, to advance to the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals.
On Saturday, the Grizzlies were on the other end of the turnover total, taking the ball away from Stephen F. Austin 10 times en route to a resounding 51-0 victory that sends them to the FCS semifinals.
“The takeaways were big,” Montana coach Bobby Hauck said. “When you take the ball away 10 times and only give it back once, you’re going to win the game.”
Andrew Selle threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score, and the Montana defense turned in a dominating performance against the top-ranked offense in the FCS.
Montana (13-0) hosts the winner of Saturday night’s game between Appalachian State and Richmond in the semifinals.
The Grizzlies capitalized on seven first-half turnovers by Stephen F. Austin (10-3) to build a 38-0 halftime lead.
Selle scored on a 4-yard run early in the second quarter and followed up with short scoring passes to Marc Mariani, Jabin Sambrano and Steve Pfahler before halftime.
“Selle did some great things,” Hauck said. “He played steady and solid, like he generally does. When you win 51-0, your quarterback is playing well.”
From Selle’s perspective, Montana’s performance was no surprise.
“We’re executing really well right now,” Selle said. “It’s December. That’s exactly what we should be doing.”
The Grizzlies got two touchdown runs from Chase Reynolds and three field goals from Brody McKnight.
Defensively, Montana was led by tackle Tyler Hobbs, who had an interception and two fumble recoveries, and safety Shann Schillinger, who added an interception and a fumble recovery.
“It’s a huge accomplishment shutting out the top scoring offense in the country,” Hobbs said. “But it’s easy to shut out a team when your offense is marching up and down the field.”
Stephen F. Austin coach J.C. Harper said Montana’s scare last week may have come back to haunt his team.
“Last week’s game was a lot closer that they wanted it to be,” Harper said. “I think they made sure it wasn’t going to happen again. But I can’t say enough good things about Montana. They had a great game plan.”
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.