A hat trick of interceptions from Josh Sandry led a defensive-heavy spring game that saw the White team take down the Maroon team 34-7 at Naranche Stadium in Butte.
There were five total interceptions on the day, all of which came from the White defense. They held the Maroon passing attack, led by Reese Phillips and Gresch Jensen, to 23 completions on 41 attempts with zero touchdown passes.
Head coach Bob Stitt loved what he saw from his number one defense.
“We played great defense, which we knew we could. It’s fun to see these guys come out and play with this intensity,” Stitt said. “We didn’t give up any big plays which is exactly what we wanted and we got the turnovers.”
In a game that saw the teams generally divided to where the number one offense went against the number one defense, and twos against two, it was backup quarterback Caleb Hill who stole the show offensively.
The junior transfer finished the day 15-of-27 for 188 yards and three touchdown passes. He added 67 yards on the ground, but lost 49 yards because of sacks. There was a touch-rule implemented on quarterbacks and Stitt thinks he would have had many more yards in a real game.
“He looked good throwing the ball and what Caleb can do is pull it down and run with it too,” Stitt said. “Every day he gets better and gets more comfortable with what we are doing.”
The front line of the defense also put in work, recording 12 sacks between the two teams. Jace Lewis, Randy Rodriguez and Devin Maua each recorded two apiece. There were 11 different players that recorded at least a share of a sack, showing the depth the Griz have up front.
“We’ve got eight guys that can make big-time plays,” Stitt said. “The talent that we have is huge, but the depth is even better, so against up-tempo teams we can run two units in and feel really good about that.”
Sandry began his impressive day by reading a quick outside pass from quarterback Reese Phillips. Sandry jumped the route and had a wide-open path to the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
The route was on early in the second quarter. After a turnover on downs by Maroon, Hill and the White offense drove 52 yards in just three plays, scoring on a 37-yard deep ball over the middle to redshirt-freshman Samori Toure.
A few minutes later it was déjà vu for Sandry, jumping a quick passing route and returning an interception 54 yards to the house to increase White’s lead to 28 points with over five minutes still remaining in the half.
“I didn’t change my approach at all, I’m just a blue-collar hard worker,” Sandry said after the game. “I put my head to the grindstone and work as hard as I can and do whatever I can to help this team win.”
The offenses both cooled off to close out the half. White entered the shortened break with a 28-0 lead. Hill finished the second quarter 3-of-4 passing the football for 49 yards and a touchdown, while both quarterbacks for Maroon threw an interception in the period.
White came out of the half just as hot as they finished the first. They found the end zone again with under three minutes remaining. Hill found another streaking receiver over-the-top, dropping in a perfect pass to Danny Burton for a 31-yard touchdown.
Hill had another impressive quarter, completing 60 percent of his passes for 84 yards and a score. White added 28 more on the ground for a 111-yard quarter, outgaining Maroon by over 70 yards in the 10-minute stretch.
In the fourth quarter, Maroon finally found some offensive momentum on a drive led by Gresch Jensen. After taking over on a missed field goal by White, Jensen marched his squad 80 yards in nine plays and finished the drive himself, scoring on a one-yard QB keeper to put Maroon on the board for the first time.
Jensen had a solid fourth quarter, completing four of his five passes for 85 yards.
In a two-minute drill to end the game, Maroon threatened to score again, this time on a drive led by Phillips. The senior quarterback kept the drive alive with a fourth-down scramble late in the game, but his last-second attempt to the end zone was intercepted by Sandry, his third of the day.
“He is a young guy but he is a leader on that side of the ball and it was great to see him break out,” Stitt said of Sandry. “He just has a feel for it.”
There were 17 different Grizzly players that recorded a catch during the game, led by Toure’s 48-yard, one touchdown performance. Jerry Louie-McGee also had 48 yards receiving, while Simis and Burton each finished with a touchdown.
Shane Moody led all running backs with 48 yards on the ground.
Butte and Naranche played a great host for the Spring Game. Former Griz standout and current NFL player Colt Anderson spoke with the team before the game and a crowd of about 3,500 people showed up to watch the scrimmage.
“You can’t thank the people of Butte enough for making this the event that it was. It really helps our football team in the spring to be able to travel and play in front of a great crowd and it gives them a good feel, especially the young guys. This has been a great weekend.”