Ford tough: Griz corner keeps showing up in red zone

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Oct. 10—Justin Ford is making a habit of this.

After Dixie State came up with a fumble early in Saturday's game with the host Montana Grizzlies, quarterback Kenyon Oblad led the Trailblazers smartly down the field.

That is until it was second-and-goal from the Grizzlies' 4-yard line, when Ford dove and caught a slant pass in the end zone.

In a game Montana won 31-14, it was one of a few key plays that kept things from getting too uncomfortable.

The junior cornerback made a similar pick in UM's 42-7 win over Western Illinois on Sept. 11, intercepting a pass moments after Griz quarterback Cam Humphrey was picked off.

"Just trying to make a play," Ford said. "I think the interception came after a quick turnaround, in the end zone, and that's just how we play: Go get the football.

"Ultimately we didn't come away with a shutout. I wish we would've. But we played fast and physical and that's how we're coached."

Ford had another big play, again after Dixie State had first-and-goal in the fourth quarter. On fourth down he blitzed, sacked quarterback Oblad, popped the ball loose and scooped it.

Most of the stadium caught up to him by the 30-yard line so he tried a lateral to Jace Lewis.

It went forward, drawing a flag — and words of wisdom from Griz coach Bobby Hauck.

"Here's what I said," Hauck recalled. "The fans love it, and I hate it. You decide who you want the good favor from."

Momentum swing

Kris Brown's first start at quarterback, sterling third quarter aside, wasn't all roses: Three fumbles, two lost, one returned for a TD. And an interception.

Things smoothed out in the third with a flurry of swing passes and dump-offs. Tight end Cole Grossman, yet another freshman starting for UM, was the main beneficiary with seven catches for 70 yards.

"We spent all week practicing them and just waited for the right time to use them," Brown said. "And Grossman played great today. He got his touchdown (as a Griz), and it helps you having playmakers around you."

Almost ran it back

Special teams were hit and miss for the Griz as well: Kevin Macias was 1-for-2 on field goals, and was stuff on a fake at the end of the first half; Brian Buschini wasn't booming his punts like usual; Keelan White had a bobble, then a turf monster mar two different punt returns.

The brightest spot was right before the field goal fake: Robby Hauck tore off a 34-yard punt return down to the Dixie State 25-yard line.

"When he made the one guy miss right in front of us I thought he was going to score," said his dad, who is also UM's special teams coach. "Our guy (Autjoe Soe) tripped him. Which is too bad."

Robby Hauck has been listed at No. 2 at punt returner behind Gabe Sulser, but with Sulser out indefinitely (leg), White got a chance.

"On the first two ... it wasn't good enough at the return spot," Bobby Hauck said. "So I got fed up."

Upset-minded

When you figure in a couple goal-line stands that Montana made, you can see how the Grizzlies' win could have been more convincing.

Hauck, on the other hand, is convinced. He was mindful that Idaho State, coached by his former offensive coordinator Rob Phenicie, scored its first win Saturday by knocking off No. 7 UC Davis, 27-17. The Aggies dropped to 5-1.

"And then it showed up today," Hauck said. "Anybody can beat you, that's just the way it is. The best teams don't always win and good on those teams that won today. Including us."

QUICK KICKS: Glacier product Patrick O'Connell padded his league-leading sack total to an even six, after sharing one with defensive tackle Alex Gubner. O'Connell had seven tackles, second on the team to Marcus Welnel's eight. ... Eureka's Garrett Graves made his third straight start at safety, and had five tackles and one pass break up. ... The Griz had five sacks Saturday and surrendered four.

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