MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) – Montana combined a new play with its new quarterback to push past talented Sacramento State 41-34 Saturday.
Junior Dalton Sneed ran for 206 yards and three touchdowns and then threw a go-ahead scoring pass to Matt Rensvold to lift the Grizzlies in the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams.
Sneed found Rensvold on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line to break a 31-31 tie with 10:27 left to play. The Grizzlies (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky Conference) added a Tim Semenza field goal for a commanding 41-31 lead with 1:32 remaining.
Sneed dazzled running the ball, with scoring bursts of 75, 12 and 38 yards. Two came on plays where he faked a toss sweep and ran untouched.
It was a play offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach inserted this week.
“That read, quick-pitch, quarterback play? ‘Rosie’ invented that right here in Missoula,” Montana coach Bobby Hauck said.
“I don’t want to take credit on that,” Sneed added, after racking up the eighth-best rushing total in Grizzly history. “Because every person in this room could have run through the holes I ran through today. It shows the growth of a young offensive line that’s progressively gotten better.”
The Grizzlies’ 200th win in Washington-Grizzly Stadium history came after Sac State (2-2, 1-1) bolted to a 28-17 behind three rushing touchdowns from tailback Elijah Dotson.
Dotson had scoring runs of 59, 1 and 75 yards, the last erasing a 17-14 Montana lead at 7:17 of the second quarter. The Hornets’ lead grew to 28-17 when Jaelin Ratliff caught a Kevin Thomson pass, broke a tackle and sped 77 yards for the score.
Dotson finished with 234 yards on 30 carries.
“We did not play well on defense the first half,” Hauck said. “That back is really good, and if everybody is not lined up on that stretch play, he’s going to find it.”
After Ratliff’s touchdown, Sneed answered for Montana, capping a 75-yard drive with his second scoring run with 24 seconds left in the first half. The quarterback then tore off his 38-yard TD to put the Grizzlies up 31-28 at 11:45 of the third quarter.
Thomson threw for 259 yards for Sac State. Devon Medeiros added a pair of field goals for the Hornets, including a 30-yarder with 11 seconds left. Montana recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the outcome.
“What a great football game,” Hauck said. “Sac State is the best team we’ve played this year, and I don’t think it’s close. When they got that 10-point lead we were up against it. I’m starting to like this team’s resilience and ability to fight back.”
Medeiros’ first field goal came after the Hornets drove to Montana’s 5-yard-line early in the fourth quarter and then false-started on fourth-and-goal at the 1. Sac State settled for three, tying the game at 31-all.
“Play of the game,” Hauck said of the noisy north end zone fans. “Got them to jump and they had to kick a field goal. We told them we needed them and they showed up for us.”
Ratliff had 107 receiving yards on three catches for Sac State.
Freshman Gabe Sulser had Montana’s first touchdown, on a 53-yard end-around.
The Grizzlies wore their old copper-and-gold colors to honor legendary quarterback Dave Dickenson, who was at the game. Dickenson, head coach of the CFL Calgary Stampeders, is in the newest class for the College Football Hall of Fame.
Sacramento State: The Hornets made plenty of big plays while building a 28-17 second-quarter lead, but stalled after halftime and couldn’t get a handle on Montana’s quarterback. Sac State fell to 0-12 at Montana.
Montana: The 200th win in program history came with Montana wearing its old-school copper jerseys and via the feet and arm of Dalton Sneed, who threw for 234 yards and ran for 206.
Sacramento State: The Hornets have a bye this coming week and then play Big Sky foe Cal Poly in Sacramento on Oct. 6.
Montana: The Grizzlies, ranked No. 19 in the Football Championship Subdivision, take to the road to play Cal Poly on Sept. 29.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.