Idaho worked to perfection its blueprint to possibly beat Montana on its first drive Saturday.
It was a methodical, 75-yard, 9-play march that consumed 5 minutes of the first quarter and concluded with 250-pound Aundre Carter bashing the ball through the Grizzly defense and across the goal line from two yards out.
But Montana declined to be limited to merely playing that kind of running game against the Vandals, and when the Grizzlies opened up their offense and began amassing 288 yards through the air, Idaho had no answer until the issue was decided. The Grizzlies scored 34 consecutive points before Idaho got on the scoreboard again in the final minute of a 34-14 Montana win.
With their top two quarterbacks Mike Beaudry and C.J. Jordan missing the second straight game with injuries, the Vandals went the distance with Zach Borisch, a change of pace running quarterback, and Gevani McCoy, a true freshman playing only his second game. McCoy did some impressive learning on the fly, and he directed a beauty of a drive late in the fourth quarter, highlighted by a 35-yard pass to Kyrin Beachem to the 13-yard line and a pinpoint mortar shot to the corner of the end zone that dropped into the arms of Mekhi Stevenson who had outrun Grizzlies’ cornerback Justin Ford. It was the first touchdown pass McCoy has thrown as a college player. But for the game McCoy was only 8 of 15 for 123 yards passing, with 2 interceptions, and he was sacked 5 times. Borisch completed his one pass for 22 yards, and he led Idaho with 44 yards rushing.
That wasn’t enough to keep pace with Montana’s Kris Brown, who accounted for 256 of his team’s passing yardage, going 19 of 34. The total included a 70-yard strike to Mitch Roberts, who led all receivers with 145 yards on 7 catches, and a 39-yard pass to Samuel Akem, which was the key play on a drive that ended with Brown connecting with tight end Cole Grossman on a 6-yard dart for the go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter.
Junior Bergen allowed Montana to control much of the action on the ground, as well. He was the game’s leading rusher with 77 yards and two touchdowns.
“They play super hard down after down,” Vandals’ coach Paul Petrino said of the Grizzlies.
Petrino also said he was impressed by McCoy’s tenacity in coming back from big hits and interceptions to keep improving throughout the game.
“He’s going to be a great player here someday. He has the ‘it’ factor.”
‘It’ looks like it arrived on campus just yesterday. McCoy is only 160 pounds stretched along a 6-foot frame, and he looks young enough to be still taking driver’s education. He said of his first touchdown “it was a great experience with this team. Just for that to be my first touchdown just felt good with that group of guys out there.”
He confirmed that he was maturing even over the course of the game.
“I just had to get my feet wet. Basically, as the game went on, I started feeling more comfortable.”
By the end, he was sounding like a veteran. On his touchdown pass to Stevenson “I saw it was a man match up. I felt my guy was better than their guy. I put it out there for him to make a great play, and he made a great play.”
Montana improved to 5-2, 2-2 in the Big Sky Conference. The Vandals slipped to 2-5, 1-3 in the Big Sky and they have now lost two in a row.
Tre Walker, who led Idaho with 11 tackles, couldn’t fault the defensive effort against Montana, but he was frustrated by the result.
“At the end of the day, we’re not winning. We’ve got to go back to the chalk board,” he said. “The season’s not over. We’ve got to keep on working each game. Keep on fighting and hold our heads up.”
This echoed what Petrino said about the loss and about the remainder of Idaho’s season.
“It’s life, man. You’ve got two choices. Keep working to get better or quit. We’re not going to quit.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.