MISSOULA – After a week off, recovering from a concussion, Jordan Johnson returned to the Montana lineup Saturday and threw two touchdown passes to lead the Grizzlies to a 28-20 win over South Dakota. But the senior quarterback was not satisfied with the play of the Montana offense.
“I thought overall we played pretty well on offense,” Johnson said. “But we missed a ton of opportunities and had a few key penalties that took us out of our rhythm.”
Johnson, who sat out last week’s game against Central Washington, completed 16-of-27 passes for 127 yards. He hooked up with Mitch Saylor on a 12-yard scoring play and Jamaal Jones on a 14-yard touchdown toss in the third quarter.
Montana (2-1) also forced three South Dakota (1-2) turnovers — the final one coming with 5:20 to play in the game when Matt Hermanson picked off a Ryan Saeger pass at the Jackrabbits 45.
The Grizzlies also shut down South Dakota’s running attack for most of the game, forcing Saeger to put the ball in the air.
“We did a really good job of stopping them on first and second down, putting them into passing situations on third down,” said Montana defensive end Zach Wagenmann, who had three sacks in the game.
John Nguyen scored on a 9-yard run late in the first quarter and the Grizzlies never trailed in the game, taking a 7-3 lead into halftime.
“Montana did exactly what they had to do to win the game tonight,” said South Dakota coach Joe Glenn, a former Montana head coach. “They made a point to run the football and they established that early.”
The Grizzlies picked up 207 yards on the ground. Jordan Canada led the way with 114 yards on 16 carries.
“Our backs played really well,” said Montana coach Mick Delaney. “I’m really proud of our offensive line. They are getting better all the time.”
Delaney was less enamored with Montana’s kicking game, where the Grizzlies missed three field goals and used three different kickers.
“We struggled tonight in the kicking game,” Delaney said. “That’s frustrating. We have got to get that cleaned up. The kickers have a responsibility to kick the ball between those two goal posts. That’s what they are here for.”
South Dakota cut Montana’s lead to 28-20 with 1:50 to play when Saeger hooked up with Eric Shufford Jr. on a 31-yard scoring pass. But Miles Bergner’s onside kick attempt went out of bounds and the Grizzlies ran out the clock.
Jasper Sanders scored on a 2-yard run for the Jackrabbits in the third quarter, while Travon Van added a 28-yard touchdown run for Montana in the fourth quarter.
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