MISSOULA – Travon Van reached the end zone the first three times he touched the ball Saturday in Montana’s 48-14 win over Central Washington. But it was no big deal for the Grizzlies senior running back.
“Oh yeah, I’ve done it before back in high school,” said Van when asked if the three-for-three touchdown performance was a first. “But it felt really good to do it again.”
Montana (1-1), playing without injured starting quarterback Jordan Johnson, turned to Van to dismantle the Division II Wildcats (0-1).
Van scored on runs of 31 and 9 yards and an 85-yard pass from Shay Smithwick-Hann to lead the Grizzlies to a 34-7 halftime lead. Van added a fourth touchdown in the third quarter on a 43-yard run.
“(Van) is so electrifying in space that we know we have to get him the ball,” said Montana coach Mick Delaney. “He is just such a fine athlete.”
Montana dominated on both sides of the ball from the start. The Grizzlies denied the Wildcats a first down in the first quarter and racked up 443 yards of total offense, including 298 yards on the ground.
“Our goal coming into the game was to be able to run the ball and stop the run,” Delaney said. “We ran for nearly 300 yards which makes an old bugger like me happy.”
Tucker Schye picked up a fumbled punt by teammate John Nguyen and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown and Harrison Greenberg booted a 29-yard field goal to round out Montana’s first-half scoring.
Central Washington coach Ian Shoemaker called Schye’s return with 4:10 left in the first quarter, which gave Montana a 17-0 lead, a turning point in the game.
“Obviously it was a big momentum change right there,” said Shoemaker. “We thought we had made a big play. It was exciting and deflating at the same time.”
Central Washington got on the scoreboard with 10:06 to play in the half on a 13-yard pass from Jake Nelson to Kent McKinney Jr.
But it was all Montana the rest of the way, even with Delaney emptying his bench in the fourth quarter.
After Van’s fourth touchdown of the day, Nguyen capped the Grizzly scoring on a 22-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Jordan Todd added a 32-yard scoring run for the Wildcats with 12:20 remaining in the game.
“From top to bottom— offense, defense and special teams — we played really well,” Delaney said.
Van finished the day with 153 yards in total offense. Smithwick-Hann completed 10-of-16 passes for 145 yards.
Wildcat quarterback Nelson was good on 25-of-37 attempts for 217 yards. Greg Logan hauled in nine catches for 92 yards for Central Washington.
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