The Griz defeated Dixie State at home Oct. 9 in a game that saw Montana start a new quarterback and score only three points in the first half.
“It was an exciting fun game to be a part of,” UM head coach Bobby Hauck said. “[I’m] really glad to get the win.”
The game was the first-ever matchup between UM and freshly Division I Dixie State, which is playing its first season as a D1 team. UM started redshirt freshman Kris Brown at quarterback after its original starter Cam Humphrey was carried off the field without putting weight on his right ankle in UM’s last game.
Brown had an up-and-down game in his first start, logging 241 passing yards and a touchdown while throwing one interception and fumbling once. Brown was also sacked three times and struggled to get offensive momentum going in the first half.
The first 10 drives of the game didn’t end in any points, and six of them ended in punts. The score at the end of the first quarter was 0-0. One of UM’s lone highlights in the first quarter came when defensive back Justin Ford intercepted a Dixie State pass in the end zone.
Montana finally opened up scoring midway through the second quarter when kicker Kevin Macias made a 27 yard field goal to put the Griz up 3-0.
Both teams buckled down defensively for the rest of the first half, and the halftime score remained 3-0. The last time UM scored just three points in the first half was against Washington in its season opening game Sept. 4.
In the second half, Montana’s offense finally kicked it into gear. True freshman Junior Bergen ran in a six yard touchdown early in the second half to give UM a 10-0 lead.
Bergen was originally playing receiver for the Griz in 2021, but because Montana’s main running backs are injured, Bergen has been playing running back instead. He had 44 rushing yards on 14 carries in the game.
After Bergen’s touchdown, UM’s offense once again marched the ball down the field and scored, this time in the form of a Brown pass to tight end Cole Grossman. Grossman had 70 receiving yards in the game, more than any of UM’s receivers. The Brown-to-Grossman connection put the Griz up 17-0.
At the end of the third quarter, Montana still led 17-0 and fans began filing out of Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Montana’s attendance was listed at 23,434, the first time that its stadium hasn’t been sold out in the season.
Brown took in a rushing touchdown from a yard out early in the fourth quarter to extend Montana’s lead to 24-0. He had 27 rushing yards in the game, but was sacked for a total of 29 yards. His rushing total was -2 yards.
On Dixie State’s first drive of the second half, it looked like the Trailblazers might score, but Ford recovered a fumble that he returned out to midfield.
Montana’s celebration after Ford’s big play didn’t last long, as five plays later Brown fumbled the ball and Dixie State returned it for a touchdown. The Trailblazers attempted a two point conversion, but failed, so the score stood at 24-6 in UM’s favor.
Brown got redemption later in the game when he rushed for another one-yard touchdown to put the Griz up 31-6. Dixie State scored on a passing touchdown on its next drive. The Trailblazers late rally wasn’t enough, though, and UM won 31-14.
Montana had 440 total yards compared to Dixie State’s 261. The Griz allowed Dixie State to gain a measly average of 1.3 yards on its rush attempts.
UM is now 4-1 on the season, and thanks to losses from top ranked FCS teams in the country, the Griz will return to the top five in the country. UM’s next game is against Sacramento State at home on Oct. 16.
Dixie State, which is playing an independent schedule before it joins the Western Athletic Conference next season, is now 0-5.