MISSOULA — Jordan Johnson completed his first 12 passes of the game and threw for two touchdowns as Montana and a stifling defense downed Appalachian State, 30-6, in the season opener for both teams Saturday night.
Johnson, seeing his first action after missing all of last season while dealing with legal issues, completed 19-of-23 passes for 251 yards in front of a record crowd of 26,293 in the first regular season night game ever played at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
“I just prepared the same way I always prepare,” Johnson said. “I’ve played football for a long time.”
Travon Van, a transfer from Marshall, also looked good in his Grizzly debut, carrying the ball 20 times for 118 yards and a touchdown and Jordan Canada ran 25 times for 112 yards and a touchdown as the Grizzlies rushed for 246 yards in the game.
“This is a really special start,” said Montana coach Mick Delaney. “Seeing us run the football down their throat — a team that’s going to be an FBS school next year — is so gratifying.”
Delaney was also quick to praise his defense for its effort in the win.
“On defense we had 11 guys just swarming to the ball,” he said.
Montana’s defense thwarted the Mountaineers all night, holding them to a pair of Drew Stewart field goals. Safety Bo Tully led the way with two key third-quarter turnovers, recovering a Kameron Bryant fumble at the Montana 1-yard line with 3:30 to play in the quarter and picking off a Bryant pass at the Appalachian State 43-yard line on the next Mountaineer series.
“Turnovers are huge,” Tully said. “They were kind of driving and that first fumble recovery changed the momentum of the game.”
Touchdowns by Canada on a 1-yard run with 13:13 to play in the game and Jordan Harper on an 11-yard pass from Johnson with 9:23 to go iced the game for Montana.
Montana kept the Mountaineers out of the end zone in the first half, taking a 16-3 lead into the locker room.
The Grizzlies moved the ball against the Appalachian State defense, but came up empty after turning the ball over twice deep in Mountaineer territory – on downs at the 18-yard line with 5:53 left in the first quarter and on a botched handoff between Johnson and Van at the 1-yard line with 14:22 to go in the second quarter.
Johnson and Ellis Henderson hooked up on a 6-yard touchdown pass to put Montana on the board with 10:30 to play in the second quarter. Chris Lider’s PAT was blocked leaving the Grizzlies with a 6-0 lead.
Montana made it 13-0 six minutes later on a 2-yard Van touchdown after taking the ball 82 yards in nine plays.
Derek Crittenden blocked an Appalachian State punt with 2:09 left in the half giving Montana the ball at the Mountaineer 13-yard line and setting up a 25-yard Lider field goal.
Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield said his team’s lack of a running game along with turnovers had a lot to do with the outcome of the contest.
“We didn’t get anything going running the ball,” Satterfield said. “We turned the ball over twice and had a blocked punt. That makes it tough to win against a team like Montana.”
The Mountaineers got on the board as time ran out in the first half on a 48-yard Stewart field goal to cut the Montana lead to 16-3. Backup quarterback Bryant engineered a 54-yard drive to set up the field goal after entering the game for starter Jamal Londry-Jackson.
Bryant completed 13-of-21 passes for 116 yards and Ricky Fergerson carried the ball 12 times for 59 yards to pace the Mountaineers. Tony Washington hauled in six catches for 81 yards.
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