It was the Dalton Sneed Show on Saturday at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow as the junior quarterback picked Idaho apart both through the air and on the ground and the Grizzlies rolled to their second consecutive dominating road win, topping the Vandals 46-27.
Sneed threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns on just a dozen completions, and when he tucked the ball and ran, he went for another 129 yards and one more score.
Pretty good day for a guy who took up a bulk of Idaho’s scouting report and game plan.
“Their staff spoke ad nauseam this week that if you stop Sneed, you stop the Grizzlies,” said Bobby Hauck, who was the recipient of a postgame Gatorade shower on the sideline after becoming the winningest coach in program history, passing Don Read.
“Well, they didn’t do it, even though they had their whole defense juiced up to do that. Good for Dalton and good for our offense. We made plays, and when guys are making plays around him, we’re hard to stop.”
Indeed. In the first half — and the game was over by the time the teams went to their locker rooms, with the Grizzlies leading 36-6 — Montana had 306 yards of offense and had as many touchdowns (5) as third downs faced (5).
After going three-and-out on its first possession of the game, Montana scored touchdowns on its next five, giving the engraver the entire second half to begin updating the Little Brown Stein. The traveling trophy was in Moscow, but its visit was short-lived.
With Montana trailing 3-0 early in the game, Sneed found Gabe Sulser 30 yards down the field, and the freshman did the rest, pulling away from Idaho’s defensive backs to the goal line for a 59-yard scoring strike.
The Vandals would be reading the backs of the Grizzlies’ uniforms often the rest of the first half.
On Montana’s first possession of the second quarter, Sneed hit Samuel Akem for a 52-yard touchdown, a throw-and-catch that belongs in a museum so beautiful was its execution, with Sneed pushing the limits of the dome’s height and Akem running past two defenders and under the ball, in perfect stride.
And just because: safety Reid Miller took the snap from center on the two-point conversion attempt and ran it in.
It was going to be that kind of day.
“It was a dominant effort by the Grizzlies,” said Hauck. “I liked their attitude. We were very business-like to start the game. They played their tails off, and we just took care of it.
“We’ve had two dominating wins in November, so we’re excited about where we are right now.”
Montana has outscored its last three opponents 87-23 in the first half, and the early onslaught continued into the second quarter on Saturday.
Sneed hit Akem for 40 yards to the Idaho 10, then made things right by going right back to Akem two players later. The receiver caught the ball in the left flat and walked in untouched for his fourth consecutive two-touchdown day. And Montana led 29-3.
After the Vandals kicked a field goal, Sneed took the ball around left end on the first play of what would be Montana’s final possession of the first half. He was pushed out of bounds 62 yards later. Two plays after that, Jerry Louie-McGeeran it in from 13 yards out. Montana 36, Idaho 6.
The Grizzlies had more than 200 yard of offense in the second quarter and scored 22 points despite possessing the ball for a little more than five minutes. And they played all out until the final whistle.
With Idaho driving and the first-half clock in its final seconds, Petrino, rolling out to his left, spotted David Ungerer alone in the end zone. Score there and the Vandals maybe take a spark into the locker room.
Robby Hauck was having none of it. Looking like he was out of the play, positioned as he was closer to midfield in the end zone than the sideline, where Ungerer was, Hauck closed the gap and got enough of a finger — in all-out dive — on Petrino’s pass to bat it off its intended course.
“We’re a young team getting better, which makes us really dangerous in the month of November,” said Hauck. “I didn’t know if it would, but I had a sneaky suspicion that this could happen.
“You never know with a young team like this if you’re going to be good enough any Saturday, but I know one thing. We’re turning the corner in terms of effort level and physical-ness and the fact we can count on our guys to show up.”
Montana went 89 yards in nine plays to go up 43-13 late in the third quarter, a drive started with the punishing running of Alijah Lee and finished with a one-yard run by Sneed.
The fourth quarter had not yet arrived, but Sneed was finished for the day. Everything Montana had needed from him, he’d done. And then some.
“He’s a special player. He can throw it, and he can run it. Those guys are hard to find. He had a great night tonight,” said Hauck.
But it wasn’t all the offense’s doing. Idaho didn’t find the end zone until the third quarter, and the Vandals’ two fourth-quarter touchdowns weren’t scored against Montana’s A-listers.
That included Dante Olson, who recorded four solo tackles, six more assisted, to up his season total to 132, giving him two more than Kendrick Van Ackeren had in 2015 when he established the program record.
“Dante is one of the guys who sets the tone. He brings it every Saturday,” said Hauck. “There have been a lot of great players who have played football at the University of Montana on the defensive side. To be at the top of the heap in any category speaks volumes.”
With one longtime rival put in its place, Montana now turns its focus to its oldest, Montana State, who the Grizzlies host in Missoula next Saturday at noon.
Both teams will enter the game 6-4 overall, 4-3 in league and riding two-game winning streaks. The Bobcats defeated Northern Colorado 35-7 on Saturday in Bozeman.
It’s the game Hauck was hired last December to win.
He lost two of his first three against Montana State in his first tenure at Montana. He left on a four-game winning streak over the Bobcats.
He’s one coach who doesn’t shy away from the game’s significance. At all. In fact he helps fuel it.
“I’m not fit to be around the week of this game,” he said. “I have a love-hate relationship with this game. I love winning it and I detest losing it.”
And that’s all Griz Nation has ever wanted to hear from its football coach.