MISSOULA — On a hot, smoky afternoon in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Montana held its final scrimmage of fall camp in a closed-door session, looking to add polish to an improving product.
The Griz ran through roughly 75 plays in a little over an hour as head coach Bob Sitt pushed the tempo of his hurry-up offense.
“I thought the offense moved the ball pretty well, got the momentum going several times,” Stitt said following his team’s third and final test run leading up to next Saturday’s showdown in Missoula against four-time defending national champion North Dakota State. “Defense came up with a turnover and a score. It’s disappointing we can’t kick a field goal. We’ve got to clean that up. We get it down in the red zone and if we don’t score, we’ve got to get points out of it.”
Senior kicker Chris Lider went 4-of-4 on PATs, but missed two shots at field goals, one from roughly 20 yards and one from 33.
Junior quarterback Brady Gustafson led the Griz for half of the 12 offensive series, tallying two touchdown passes, accounting for 14 of the Grizzlies’ 21 offensive points.
Sophomore Makena Simis led the Griz through four of the next six drives, but did not put points on the board. Chad Chalich led the remaining two drives, one of which resulted in a touchdown pass to Carl Johnson on the 10th series.
Gustafson and the offense came out blazing to start the scrimmage. The 6-foot-7 Billings West product hit his first four passes, capped off by a 50-yard touchdown pass to senior captain Jamaal Jones.
The defensive points came at the beginning of the fourth drive of the scrimmage when defensive end Zach Peevey blocked a pass from Simis, hung on to the ball and returned it 30 yards untouched for the score.
The third offensive score of the afternoon came on the 11th series, when Gustafson again unleashed the long ball and found Ellis Henderson streaking down the sideline for a 70-yard strike.
“I think he (Gustafson) threw the long ball better,” Stitt said. “He got a little air underneath it and dropped it in over the top. It’s what we lacked in the last scrimmage where we had a couple of deep ones we could have got, that were a little flat and we overthrew them. So it was nice to get a couple deep ones.”
Stitt mentioned improvements in pass protection and an increased production in the running game.
“It’s a combination of the quarterbacks moving in the pocket and the o-line getting it done up front,” Stitt said. “If we can eliminate sacks, and keep ourselves in a decent third down and fourth down situation, it’s always going to be effective.
“The running backs made some plays. We got the ball in their hands, as far as throwing it, and also in the running game, and when we get that the play count is going to go way up, our drives are going to get in the double digit area, and then it gets a lot easier.”
Montana will review film from the scrimmage on Friday as the team enters game week.
“I think we competed really well and played hard. It’s hot out here, it’s smoky, and we’re just ready to get after a game plan and prepare for somebody else,” Stitt said.
The scrimmage was closed to the public and the media. No official stats were available.