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FOOTBALL EDGED BY No. 14 MONTANA, 28-25
MISSOULA, Mont. – In a game which featured eight lead changes, Montana quarterback Justin Roper completed 16-of-19 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns, including the eventual game-winning 29-yard TD pass to Bryce Carver as the 14th-ranked Grizzlies knocked off Sacramento State, 28-25, in a Big Sky Conference football game Saturday afternoon at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Sacramento State forced four turnovers (three fumbles, one interception), controlled the time of possession (32:55-27:05) and outgained Montana on the ground by a 139-40 margin, but could not score on any of its final three possessions. After a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Fleming to Matt Carter (their second hookup of the day for a TD) with 14:56 remaining in the game gave the Hornets a 25-21 lead, Montana came up with a 12-play drive that featured a fourth-and-one, and three third-and-long conversions capped by a 29-yard touchdown pass to Carver with 9:34 left for a 28-25 lead.
However, the Hornets, who scored points in every quarter and put points on the board on seven different drives, mustered a combined eight yards of offense over their final three drives of the game.
With the loss, Sacramento State dropped to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big Sky Conference. Montana, which has now won 18 consecutive Homecoming games and 19 straight Big Sky home contests, improved to 2-2 and 1-1 in the conference. During the first two games of conference play, Sacramento State has now played the first and second place teams, respectively in last year’s Big Sky standings. Weber State, which finished second to the Grizzlies last year, was defeated by Sacramento State last week by a 24-17 margin.
Roper shared the quarterback duties with Andrew Selle until Selle was knocked out of the game late in the second quarter with an injury after a sack from Zack Nash. It was also Roper who threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Antwon Moutra to give Montana a 14-13 lead with 9:40 left in the second quarter.
Sacramento State kicker Chris Diniz connected on a program-record tying four field goals (50, 42, 28, 34), and his 50-yarder to give the Hornets a 3-0 lead was his third kick of at least 50 yards during his career. Hornet running back Bryan Hilliard, who had already rushed for 100 yards before halftime, finished with 124 yards on 26 carries.
Montana threw for 274 yards compared to 107 for Sacramento State, as Fleming finished the day 10-for-21 for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Both his TD passes were to Matt Carter and gave the Hornets a lead, including a 4-yard jump toss to Carter with 11:52 left in the second quarter which gave the Hornets a 13-7 lead. A blocked punt from Joe Larche set up the touchdown toss to Carter.
Three different Montana players caught touchdown passes, including Chase Reynolds, Carver and Moutra. The Grizzlies’ Jabin Sambrano caught seven balls for 77 yards.
Defensively, Sacramento State’s Peter Buck (12) and Zach Schrader (11) both finished with double figures in tackles. Buck, Nash (two) and Dana Willis each forced a fumble while Willis also came up with his first career interception which set up the Hornets’ go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Schrader, Nash and David Coleman each had sacks for Sacramento State as well.
The Hornets return to action next week when the team hosts Montana State on Saturday, Oct. 2, at 1 p.m. That will mark the first of back-to-back home games for Sacramento State as the team also hosts Northern Colorado on Saturday, Oct. 9.
NOTES – The last time a Hornet kicker converted on four field goals came on Nov. 16, 2002, when Bret LeVier made four against Weber State…a Hornet trick play that gained 34 yards in the first quarter came off a direct snap to running back Sam McCowan who handed off to wide receiver Ron Richardson, and Richardson threw a strike to Fleming down the right sideline…in career passing, Richardson is now 3-for-5 for 111 yards and a touchdown, and all three of his completions have gone for at least 29 yards…Augie Heath’s 61-yard punt near the end of the first quarter was the longest of his career…the blocked punt by Joe Larche in the second quarter marked the Hornets’ first since Darnell Worthy blocked a punt against Northern Colorado on Nov. 15, 2008.
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