MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A big game turned into a big win for the Montana Grizzlies, who rode three touchdown passes from Dalton Sneed to a 35-16 win over Weber State on Saturday.
Sneed, a senior quarterback, hooked up with junior receiver Samori Toure for all three touchdowns as the Grizzlies (9-2, 6-1 in the Big Sky Conference) handled the showdown between two top teams in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Toure had eight catches for a career-high 193 yards. His first touchdown, covering 10 yards, gave Montana the lead for good at 7-0 at 11:24 of the first quarter. The Grizzlies, ranked No. 5 in the STATS/FCS poll, scored four plays after partially blocking a punt.
Before the quarter ended Toure took a short slant pass 79 yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
“I thought the entire team took to heart that we had a big game this weekend,” Montana coach Bobby Hauck said. “And I thought the preparation was such that we were going to be tough to beat. Then we came out and played well and took care of business in a big, big way.”
On the Grizzlies’ opening possession of the second half Toure scored on a 59-yard slant pass to make it 28-3.
“It was just really a lot of film study, to be honest,” said Toure, who has seen more passes while teammate Sammy Akem has been sidelined. “We noticed in previous games that’s where they were kind of susceptible, and we just took advantage of it.”
Weber State (8-3, 6-1) ruled time of possession in the first half and intercepted Sneed twice in the second. Yet the Wildcats managed only a 32-yard Trey Tuttle field goal until backup Kaden Jenks threw two fourth-quarter TD passes.
The carbon-copy long touchdowns by Toure stuck with Weber State coach Jay Hill, who fell to 2-1 coaching against the Grizzlies.
“We had the corner and free safety right there both times and he basically split us,” said Hill, whose club is ranked No. 3 in the FCS. “Those are mistakes you hope don’t happen in a big game like we had today, but they did.”
Injuries also hurt the Wildcats, who lost standout receivers Rashid Shaheed and Devon Cooley on their second possession. Running back Josh Davis was limited as well.
“You lose three of the best players in the league, that changes things,” Hill said. “Those are all excuses, though. You have to give Montana credit. They were knocking our guys out and that’s football.”
Jake Constantine started and threw three interceptions, one coming in the end zone late in the third quarter. Another drive late in the first half ended with a bad quarterback snap that ended with a sack for a loss of 20 yards.
Constantine was 18-of-34 passing for 170 yards before he, too, was knocked out of the game.
Jenks threw for 124 yards, with touchdowns of 21 yards to Jon Christensen and 11 yards to Ty MacPherson. MacPherson had 11 catches for 162 yards.
Sneed was 16-of-24 passing for 260 yards in three quarters of work. Running back Marcus Knight added two more scoring runs to give him 19 on the season. Linebacker Jace Lewis had 16 tackles to lead a defense that limited Weber State to less than 2 yards per carry.
Montana moved into a tie with Weber State and possibly Sacramento State atop the Big Sky. A showdown with Montana State – the 119th “Brawl of the Wild” – looms next Saturday.
“We’ve put in a lot of hard work and won some tough football games,” Hauck said. “We need to finish the season out, obviously. We’ll enjoy this and get on those guys Monday.”
Weber State: The Wildcats’ attempt to grind out another win was sidetracked by a blocked punt and Montana’s big plays.
Montana: The Grizzlies came out of the gates hot, building a 35-3 third-quarter lead while keeping the Wildcat offense out of the end zone until late.
Weber State: The Wildcats return home to face Idaho State in their Big Sky finale.
Montana: The Grizzlies head to Bozeman Saturday for the 119th ‘Brawl of the Wild’ game between the Montana State Bobcats and the Griz.
“The field position battle was ours, the big-play battle was ours and the rush-defense battle was ours. You do that, you’re going to win.”
— Montana coach Bobby Hauck