Montana has advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA title game for the first time in school history with its third-straight rout of a playoff opponent.
Dave Dickenson passed for 370 yards and five touchdowns and ran for another score Saturday as the Grizzlies dominated Stephen F. Austin 70-14 in a chilly semifinal game.
Montana (12-2) shut out Eastern Kentucky 48-0 and Georgia Southern 45-0 in the first two rounds.
“I don’t think it’s because they’re not quality teams, they really are,” said UM coach Don Read. “I really thought it was a complete game for us today. We’ve played just a little notch better each of the last three or four weeks of the season.”
Montana meets Marshall, a winner over McNeese State in the other semifinal, next Saturday at Huntington, W.V., home of Marshall.
“We gelled when we had to,” said Dickenson, a senior who has passed for 5,395 yards and 49 touchdowns in 14 games this season. “I can’t think of a nicer way to go out than with a win.”
The Grizzlies scored seven straight touchdowns after Stephen F. Austin (11-2) pulled within 21-14 on a 2-yard TD run by Leonard Harris with 3:45 remaining in the first half.
Montana scored on Dickenson’s 20-yard pass to Raul Pacheco with 2:10 remaining in the half and on a 23-yard pass for Nathan Dolan’s first career TD with 28 seconds left to take a 35-14 halftime lead.
Dickenson hit Mike Erhardt on a 30-yard pass and Josh Branen ran in from 2 yards out with 9:02 left in the third quarter. The backup quarterbacks took over with a 49-14 cushion as snow began to fall.
Brian Gales added a 10-yard run with 6 minutes left in the third.
An interception by Justin Hazel set up a 15-yard run by Chris Morton with 42 seconds left in the third and an interception by Blaine McElmurry set up Morton’s 2-yard run with 9:31 remaining.
The temperature at kickoff was 6 degrees with winds of 10 to 12 mph, creating sub-zero wind chills, but most of the record crowd of 18,523 stayed until the end.
“I’ve played a lot of games in the cold. Once you get going, it’s all right,” said Montana receiver Matt Wells. “The crowd’s been amazing since I’ve been here. When you get 18,000 people in (the stadium) and they’re staying … it’s just amazing.”
SFA coach John Pearce would not blame the Arctic air for his team’s defeat.
“It wasn’t a factor,” he said. “You don’t give up 70 points and blame the weather.”
SFA struck first, capping its opening drive with a 1-yard run by Harris.
“It kind of gave us a wake-up call,” said Montana linebacker Jason Crebo, who finished the game with 11 tackles and 1-1/2 sacks.
Montana answered with a 5-yard pass from Dickenson to Erhardt less than 2-1/2 minutes later.
Montana kicker Andy Larson hit all 10 extra points.
Marshall 25, McNeese St. 13
At Lake Charles, La., freshman Chad Pennington passed for one touchdown, Chris Parker ran for a score as Marshall shut down previously unbeaten McNeese State.
Marshall (12-2) also got a 23-yard field goal from Tim Openlander and a safety in moving into next weekend’s title game.
Montana 70, S.F. Austin 14
Stephen F. Austin 7 7 0 0 - 14
Montana 14 21 28 7 - 70
SFA-Harris 1 run (Minton kick)
Mont-Erhardt 5 pass from Dickenson (Larson kick)
Mont-Dickenson 8 run (Larson kick)
Mont-Douglass 33 pass from Dickenson (Larson kick)
SFA-Harris 2 run (Minton kick)
Mont-Pacheco 20 pass from Dickenson (Larson kick)
Mont-Dolan 23 pass from Dickenson (Larson kick)
Mont-Erhardt 28 pass from Dickenson (Larson kick)
Mont-Branen 2 run (Larson kick)
Mont-Gales 10 run (Larson kick)
Mont-Morton 15 run (Larson kick)
Mont-Morton 2 run (Larson kick)
SFA Mont First downs 15 38 Rushes-yards 35-52 42-196 Passing 212 473 Return Yards 125 79 Comp-Att-Int 10-31-2 31-48-0 Punts 6-28 2-35 Fumbles-Lost 2-0 1-0 Penalties-Yards 10-86 9-80 Time of Possession 24:40 35:20
RUSHING - SFA, Harris 19-43, Vallery 5-30, Ritchey 8-(-36). Montana, Branen 8-58, Morton 10-50, Gales 10-46.
PASSING - SFA, Ritchey 8-27-2-136, Quinn 2-4-0-76. Montana, Dickenson 25-36-0-370, Paffhausen 2-4-0-35, Ah Yat 4-8-0-68.
RECEIVING - SFA, Jefferson 5-94, Goodwin 2-87, Walker 1-13. Montana, Douglass 8-127, Wells 6-62, Branen 3-59, Erhardt 3-47, Pacheco 2-36, Dolan 1-23.