For top-ranked Montana, it was the perfect way to end a perfect regular season.
Andrew Selle threw three touchdown passes, and the Grizzlies were dominant on defense en route to whipping rival Montana State 33-19 on Saturday at Bozeman, sealing the fifth unbeaten regular season in school history.
Montana held No. 23 MSU without a first down on eight consecutive possessions while building a 26-5 cushion early in the fourth quarter. By then, the Bobcats had as many points as first downs, and it was just a matter of running out the clock for the Grizzlies, winners of 12 consecutive Big Sky titles.
“To be a player on the fifth unbeaten team is a great honor,” said Selle, who was 17 of 22 for 163 yards.
Selle threw scoring passes of 9 and 6 yards to receiver Marc Mariani, then added a clinching 14-yarder to tight end Dan Beaudin with 3:07 remaining for a 33-12 lead. The latter score culminated a 19-play, 80-yard drive that wiped 9:33 off the clock after MSU scored on tight end Joe Screibeis’ 14-yard TD catch.
MSU’s season is over, but today the Grizzlies will learn their first-round opponent in the Football Championship Series playoffs.
Montana’s seniors finished 31-1 in Big Sky play over four years, losing only at Weber State last season.
“I give all the credit to the coaching staff and our seniors,” said Mariani, who caught six passes for 63 yards. “From the moment our season ended a year ago, we’ve been busting it.”
Even though the Bobcats had only 70 yards of offense in the first half, they trailed 9-5 after a 29-yard field goal by Jason Cunningham 25 seconds before halftime.
“I felt good about the first half,” MSU coach Rob Ash said. “I thought the second half would turn out better than it did, honestly. The third quarter was a nightmare.”
The Grizzlies scored on their first drive of the third quarter on Selle’s second TD pass to Mariani. It was 23-5 when Beaudin caught his second TD pass, a 1-yarder from backup QB Justin Roper.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats went from midway through the first quarter until 3:45 remained in the third quarter without a first down.
MSU quarterback Cody Kempt was 19 for 35 for 159 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. The Bobcats were limited to 110 yards until their final two drives, finishing with 242.
Montana’s previous perfect regular seasons were in 1969, 1970, 1996 and 2007. Seventh-year Grizzlies coach Bobby Hauck earned his 77th victory, tying him for third in Big Sky history with former MSU and Eastern Washington coach Mike Kramer.
“It was special to come down here and get this win because of all the things we were playing for,” Hauck said.
Sacramento St. 31, UC Davis 28: With 20 seconds left to play, junior receiver Brandyn Reed caught a 12-yard touchdown pass to lift the Hornets over the Aggies (6-5) in Sacramento, Calif.
Weber State 47, Cal Poly 14: Cameron Higgins threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Wildcats over the Mustangs (4-7) at Ogden, Utah.