MISSOULA — The Montana Grizzlies took a week off and then set some records.
Dalton Sneed threw five touchdown passes and Marcus Knight rushed for three scores to lead the Grizzlies’ 73-28 rout of Southeast Louisiana in a FCS second-round playoff game Saturday.
Knight, a sophomore running back, also caught a touchdown pass as he set Montana’s single-season marks for rushing touchdowns (23) and total touchdowns (25).
Sneed’s threw three touchdown passes to Samori Toure, who set Montana’s single-game record with 303 receiving yards on 12 catches. Toure also broke the FCS playoff mark for yards, set by Marshall’s Randy Moss. Moss had 288 against Delaware in 1996.
The sixth-seeded Grizzlies (10-3) play at third-seeded Weber State in a Big Sky Conference rematch next Saturday.
Freshman defensive back Corbin Walker’s 47-yard interception return for a touchdown capped the Grizzlies’ first playoff game since 2015. Montana (10-3), ranked No. 7 in the STATS/FCS poll, took advantage of a first-round bye and shook off a 48-14 loss to Montana State that cost them the Big Sky Conference title.
“Not just me, I think everybody on the team benefited from that,” said Sneed, who threw for a career-best 459 yards. “Any time you get a couple days, not only physically but mentally, to take a break it’s always a good thing.”
Knight’s scoring reception came with eight seconds left in the first half, and was pivotal. At the 1:17 mark SLU (8-5) had closed to 31-21 on a 52-yard touchdown pass from Chason Virgil to CJ Turner.
Montana led 38-21 at halftime and went up 45-21 when Sneed found Toure for 29 yards and a touchdown at 14:03 of the third quarter.
Lions’ coach Frank Scelfo noted that a penalty on a third-down incompletion set up Toure’s TD.
“We got the roughing the passer penalty and they kept the ball and scored,” Scelfo said. “It was a chance for us to get the ball back and we gave them an extra possession.”
Toure’s other touchdowns covered 62 and 47 yards. The first came on Montana’s first offensive play and the latter made it 65-28 with 13:11 left in the game.
Montana also had an 81-yard kickoff return by Malik Flowers and a safety from Eli Alford. Brandon Purdy added a 32-yard field goal that gave the Grizzlies the lead for good, 10-7 at 1:20 of the first quarter.
Sneed was 29 of 45 passing, including a 15-yard scoring strike to Mitch Roberts that made it 24-7 at 4:47 of the second quarter. The Lions put together two quick drives before the half ended, but Montana answered with a touchdown each time.
Virgil threw for 436 yards and four touchdowns for the Lions. Javon Conner had nine catches for 155 yards with scoring plays of 26 and 18 yards. Turner had nine catches for 148 yards.
Bransen Schwebel had a 12-yard TD reception for SLU.
“We felt keeping it close throughout the game or even taking a lead would be to our advantage,: said Scelfi, whose team did lead 7-0. “Because we’ve played a lot of close games. But they just weren’t going to have any of it.”
”Dalton will probably talk about the couple throws he missed but he was on the money today,” Montana coach Bobby Hauck said. “It was good to have our quarterback back at near 100 percent. It’s been since probably the middle of October.”
Montana beat Weber State 35-16 in Missoula on Nov. 16. The Wildcats beat Kennesaw State 26-20 on Saturday.
“It’s exciting for us to be back in the quarterfinals for the first time in a long time,” said Hauck, who is in the second year of his second tenure coaching Montana. “I know that our group had not played in a playoff game before but they all looked like veterans. They handled all that really well, so I’m proud of our team.”
Southeast Louisiana: The Lions rolled up big yardage with their passing attack, but didn’t get many stops on defense, allowing 600 yards.
Montana: Touchdowns with eight seconds left in the first half and in the first minute of the second put the Grizzlies ) in command, 45-21, as Toure and Sneed had record-setting days.
“I don’t want to say he’s fun to watch. Maybe from the stands he’d be fun to watch but from the sidelines he’s a nightmare.”
—SLU coach Frankl Scalfo on UM quarterback Dalton Sneed.
Montana: The Grizzlies head to a quarterfinal matchup with Weber State in Ogden, Utah. Montana beat the Wildcats 35-16 at home on Nov. 16.
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