#6 Montana ends #24 Lions playoff run
PHOTO: While their Lions battled No. 6 Montana on the road, Southeastern fans watched the game from the ground level of Strawberry Stadium Saturday afternoon. Lions Coach Frank Scelfo said that despite the loss, he sees the second round playoff appearance as a "key to our growth moving forward.” (Photo by Robin Abrams)
MISSOULA, Mont. – No. 6 Montana scored 28 points in the second quarter and never looked back on the way to a 73-28 victory over No. 24 Southeastern Louisiana in NCAA FCS Playoff second round action Saturday afternoon at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Southeastern’s third playoff appearance in school history ended in the second round, as the Lions finished the year with an 8-5 record. The Griz (10-3) advanced to face No. 3 seed Weber State next Saturday in Ogden, Utah. The game featured a combined 1,089 yards of total offense.
In his final game as a Lion, SLU quarterback Chason Virgil threw for 436 yards and four touchdowns on 36-of-59 passing. Virgil spread the ball around to a myriad of targets, as Devonte Williams (10 catches), Javon Conner (9-155-2 TD) and CJ Turner (9-148-1 TD) led the Southeastern air attack.
A three-headed monster led the Montana offense and is was too much for Southeastern to overcome in front of 16,550 Griz faithful. Dalton Sneed threw for 459 yards and five touchdowns on 29-of-44 passing with Samori Toure (12-303-3 TD) serving as his top target. Toure’s yardage total set a new single-game FCS playoff record. Marcus Knight led UM on the ground with 16 carries for 75 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’re disappointed today, but I’m so proud of what our team was able to accomplish this season,” Southeastern head coach Frank Scelfo said. “Our program is better for this experience and this will be key to our growth moving forward.”
Southeastern took the early lead on the opening drive of the game. A roughing the punter penalty extended the game-opening 11-play, 75-yard scoring march. Conner hauled in a pass from Virgil, shook a tackle and scored from 29 yards out to give the Lions a 7-0 lead with 9:27 left in the opening quarter.
Montana answered on the first play from scrimmage, as Toure got behind the Lion defense for a 62-yard touchdown reception that tied the score at 7-7 with 9:13 left in the opening period.
A 35-yard strike from Virgil to Turner moved the Lions into Griz territory on the next drive. However, the SLU drive bogged down and Southeastern turned the ball over on downs on the UM 24-yard line with 5:22 left in the quarter.
Montana took the ensuing drive deep into Southeastern territory. However, a tackle for loss by Dontrell Smith forced the Griz to settle for a 32-yard Brandon Purdy field goal and a 10-7 lead with 1:20 left in the opening period.
The teams traded three-and-outs to end a back-and-forth opening period.
Southeastern was forced to punt on its first drive of the second quarter. The Grizzlies then extended their lead with a nine-play, 62-yard scoring drive. A 16-yard fourth-down pass from Sneed to Toure set up a four-yard run by Knight to put Montana up, 17-7, with 9:32 left in the first half.
The Lions moved to near midfield before their next drive stalled and they were forced to punt. Montana extended its lead, as a 42-yard pass from Sneed to Toure highlighted a six-play, 82-yard scoring drive. Mitch Roberts made a nice grab in the left corner of the end zone from 15 yards out to give the Griz a 24-7 advantage with 4:47 left in the half.
Southeastern finally got back going offensively, as the Lions pulled closer with an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Virgil connected with Schwebel for a 12-yard touchdown to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 24-14 with 2:05 left in the second quarter.
The Lions’ momentum was short-lived, however, as Malik Flowers took the ensuing kickoff back 81 yards for a touchdown and a 31-14 Montana cushion with 1:54 left in the first half.
Southeastern answered right back, as Conner took a quick slant from Virgil and raced 52 yards untouched to cut the Montana lead to 31-21 with 1:17 remaining in the second quarter.
The Griz wouldn’t rest on their laurels, moving the ball 71 yards on seven plays to extend its halftime lead. Knight hauled in a seven-yard Sneed pass to send Montana into the break with a 38-21 advantage. The wild first half featured 601 total yards between the two teams.
Flowers took the opening kickoff back into Lion territory to open the second half. Three plays later, Sneed found Toure for a 29-yard touchdown pass and a 45-21 lead less than a minute into the third quarter.
Southeastern answered right back with a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Turner won a battle in the right corner of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass from Virgil with 12:09 left in the third quarter.
After the two teams traded three-and-outs, Montana extended the lead once again. A 46-yard Sneed-to-Toure pass set up an eight-yard Knight touchdown and extended the lead to 51-28 with 7:00 left in the third quarter.
After a SLU punt, Montana put the game out of reach on the next drive. Knight scored from nine yards out to put the Griz up, 58-28, with 2:42 left in the third quarter.
Montana added to its lead early in the fourth quarter. Toure ran under a 47-yard touchdown pass from Sneed to give Montana a 65-28 lead with 13:11 remaining.
After a punt pinned SLU down to its two-yard line, Montana’s Eli Alford tackled Williams in the end zone for a safety and a 67-28 lead with 8:38 remaining.
Montana closed the scoring when Corbin Walker returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown with just under two minutes remaining.