PGE Park was the scene for an intense battle between two conference rivals Saturday night. The No. 1 ranked Montana Grizzlies came to town with thoughts of extending their 21-game win streak. The Vikings, however, had different thoughts of spoiling the undefeated record of the favored Grizzlies. The Grizzlies showed in the end why they are number one in the nation, defeating Portland State 24-21.
This was a game that featured a lot of everything on the field. In the first quarter, both offenses took their time getting on track. Montana was forced to punt early, as was Portland State. About six minutes into the first quarter, Montana went 90 yards in just six plays to put the first points on the board. Quarterback John Edwards threw a 32-yard pass to Tate Hancock for a touchdown and a 7-point lead.
Later in the first, it was Juston Wood, showing his arm strength, who put a 22-yard strike into the hands of Jay Williams for a touchdown. The game was tied at the end of the first quarter, 7-7.
Ryan Fuqua, who only collected 33 yards on the night, had a 2-yard dive for a touchdown in the second quarter. In the closing seconds of the half, Montana drove all the way down to the 2-yard line looking to score before halftime. In spite of this, Portland State denied the Grizzlies any points on a big stop as time ran out.
“There was no doubt we played hard,” head coach Tim Walsh stated in a recent press release.
In the third quarter, the Vikings defense once again held Montana to minimal points. On the other side, Portland State’s offense produced another touchdown. With 6 minutes, 41 seconds left in the quarter, Wood decided to take a chance deep. Junior wideout Jay Williams had beat his corner and the secondary to the end zone. Wood was able to put enough air under the ball and right on the numbers for a 48-yard touchdown. It was Williams’ second touchdown of the game. Montana was only able to manufacture one score in the quarter, a 42-yard field goal by Snyder. The Vikings had a generous lead at the end of the third quarter, 21-13.
In the fourth quarter, Montana showed why they are a persistent, championship-caliber club. Not five minutes into the period, Snyder put another field goal through the uprights to cut into the lead, 21-16. Portland State had numerous chances with the ball, but Montana’s defense clamped down when it needed to stop the Vikings from scoring. The offense put together a drive with 10 minutes left in the quarter. Wood connected with Antonio Jackson for a 70-yard pass play. Jackson, who had the defense beat, was run down from behind, preventing the touchdown. Portland State had a chance on the drive to increase the lead to eight with a field goal from Mike Cajal-Willis. Unfortunately, Cajal-Willis was wide left from 42 yards out.
“They are not that much better than us. We’re good enough to get it done against them. We just didn’t do it tonight. We can’t play for the Big Sky championship now, but we can play for the playoffs,” Walsh stated in a recent press release.
Wood was 20-33 passing for 286 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Fuqua carried the ball 20 times for only 33 yards. Antonio Jackson led the receivers with six catches, 121 yards. Williams made three catches for 81 yards and had the only two touchdowns through the air. The Vikings defense made one interception and one sack. Senior free safety Brent Donnerberg made the interception, while Agatupu Sagapolutele got the only Viking sack of the game. Montana’s offense passed for a total of 368 yards on 30-45 attempts from Edwards. Running back J.R. Waller ran the ball 26 times for 156 yards.
Next week, the Vikings play their final home game against 20th-ranked Idaho State at PGE Park. Kickoff is set for 6:05 p.m.