Grizzlies hold off Northern Iowa, notch 1st win of Hauck Era 2.0

The Grizzlies will now turn their attention to Drake, next Saturday at 1 p.m. inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium. (GoGriz.com)

The Bobby Hauck Era 2.0 started off with a bang.

Montana scored 26 first-half points and made enough plays down the stretch to hold off a pesky Northern Iowa squad, upsetting the No. 13 Panthers in front of 25,018 fans inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

“What a great night in the stadium,” Hauck said. “The Griz fans were in full force and it was fun to see it full. Beating a really fine football team is quite a win for us. It’s great to be 1-0. We’re certainly thrilled to be in that situation.”

Making his Griz debut, quarterback Dalton Sneed completed 26-of-39 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown. He also added 58 yards on the ground, leading all Griz players. The touchdown pass came at the end of the first quarter, a 10-yard strike to Samori Toure to put the Griz in front 16-0.

Montana scored on its first possession of the game, using six plays to go 65 yards in just 2 minutes, 22 seconds, capped by a 17-yard run from Sneed. In total, Montana scored on five of its first nine drives, including two field goals from Tim Semenza, plus a little trickery midway through the second quarter. Facing first-and-10 from the UNI 25-yard line, wide receiver Keenan Curran caught a pass from Sneed before finding Collin Bingham perfectly in stride for the score.

“Our guys paid attention to detail and were ready to play,” Hauck said. “I thought it was well done by the guys on our team across the board, and our assistant coaches did a really, really good job getting these guys prepared. We came out and played fast, hard, and physical right out of the gate. We didn’t have a lot of errors. We looked like a well-oiled football team.”

While the Griz were dominant in the first half, forcing eight punts – including six three-and-outs – UNI found its rhythm in the second half. The Panthers failed to score on their first two possessions (an interception and another three-and-out), but got on the scoreboard with 1:57 remaining in the third quarter, and scored twice more on their next three drives.

After accumulating just 91 total yards of offense over the first 39 minutes, UNI had scoring drives of 90 yards, 77 and 45 over the next 18.

Meanwhile, Montana’s offense stalled in the second half, punting four times and turning the ball over on downs once. UNI cut the deficit to just 3 points – 26-23 with 3:14 to play – making things uncomfortable for Griz fans, but Sneed and the offense made plays down the stretch to ice the game.

“We didn’t win on third down on either side of the ball,” Hauck said of the second half. “Northern Iowa made some plays, so credit to them, but also shame on us for not executing more precisely.”

Facing third-and-1 from his own 34-yard line, Sneed completed a 13-yard pass to Toure to collect a first down and lead the Grizzlies into victory formation.

“As it started tightening up in the second half, there was no panicking,” Hauck said. “There was no doubt in their eyes. They did a really good job.”

In his first career start, Dante Olson led the Griz defense with 13 tackles, including a nine-yard sack. His biggest play, though, was a third-quarter interception that he returned 26 yards. Arkansas transfer Reid Miller had nine stops, while Reggie Tilleman and Jesse Sims had seven apiece. Montana forced four fumbles, but UNI was able to recover all four.

The Grizzlies will now turn their attention to Drake, next Saturday at 1 p.m. inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium.