Montana Rallies Past Sacramento State 28-25

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA – Montana receiver Bryce Carver was thankful Saturday that quarterback Justin Roper gave him a second chance.

“We ran the same play before and I didn’t hang onto the ball,” said Carver. “I’m glad I got another chance and Roper trusted me enough to throw it to me again.”

Roper hit Carver with a 29-yard touchdown pass with 9:34 to play to propel Montana to a 28-25 win over Sacramento State.

“The bottom line is we did win,” Montana coach Robin Pflugrad said. “The manner in which we won was exciting, but we continue to have issues that plagued us in the second half.”

Chase Reynolds added two touchdowns for Montana (2-2, 1-1 Big Sky) on a 42-yard pass from Andrew Selle and a 2-yard run. Antwon Moutra also scored on a 54-yard pass from Roper.

However, the Grizzlies turned the ball over four times and had a punt blocked by a Hornets squad that was looking to beat Montana for the first time in school history.

“We’re making progress,” said Sacramento State coach Marshall Sperbeck. “We came in here expecting to win. … You get that close and it stings a little bit. But it was a really good game for our team.”

Sacramento State (2-2, 1-1), which lost to Montana for the 16th time in a row, had taken a 25-21 lead on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Fleming to Matt Carter with 14:56 left in the game. But following Carver’s go-ahead score, the Hornets failed to get a first down on their final three possessions.

Grizzlies cornerback Trumaine Johnson picked off a fourth-down, desperation toss by Fleming with 42 seconds left to snuff out the Hornets’ final drive.

“Our backs were against the wall and everybody knew it,” said Montana linebacker Alex Shaw, who led the Grizzlies with 12 tackles. “We weren’t going to lose again.”

Chris Diniz booted four field goals for the Hornets and Carter caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Fleming to round out the Hornets’ scoring.

Bryan Hilliard added 124 yards rushing — 101 of which came in the first half.

“We knew we had to iron things out and stop the run,” Pflugrad said. “We challenged our defense at halftime and our defense played a tremendous second half.”

Roper, who came off the bench, was 16 of 19 for 189 yards. Selle was 5 of 9 for 85 yards before leaving late in the first half with an arm injury. Montana was held to only 40 yards rushing in the game.

“I thought our defense played an extremely good game with all the turnovers,” Sperbeck said. “But Montana did a nice job defensively, especially in the red zone where we had to settle for field goals.”

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