Sneed, Knight lead Montana to 61-17 win over North Alabama
Louie-McGee’s cut-back 74-yard punt return capped a 24-point third quarter for the Grizzlies, who ran off 45 straight points in a 61-17 victory over North Alabama on Saturday night.
Sneed, Montana’s senior quarterback, shook off a slow first half to guide the Grizzlies (2-0) through their dominant third quarter. His uneven play and some special teams miscues helped North Alabama (1-1) — a member of the Big South Conference transitioning into the Football Championship Subdivision — take a 17-16 halftime lead.
Then came three scoring drives, with Marcus Knight sandwiching scoring runs of 1 and 24 yards around a Brandon Purdy field goal to put Montana ahead 33-17. Moments later Louis-McGee, who’d had two impressive returns in the first half, broke loose in front of a crowd of 24,003.
“I thought he was going to get the first or second one,” Montana coach Bobby Hauck said. “He had some space and had two really nice returns in the first half. The guys on that team really believe in him so they work hard for him. Our mantra on that (special) team is ‘Hard work equals real estate,’ and we had a lot of real estate tonight.”
“On my touchdown, I didn’t get touched,” Louie-McGee, who also had a game-high seven catches for 78 yards, said. “I would have to give all the credit to those guys. They blocked their tails off. All I had to do was catch the ball, find some space and get to the end zone.”
He put Montana up 40-17 at 2:51 of the third quarter. Early in the fourth Sneed found tight end Matt Rensvold with a 9-yard scoring pass to make it 47-17.
For a time Sneed was outplayed by his UNA counterpart, Christian Lopez, who like Sneed began his college career at UNLV. Lopez threw for 280 yards in the first half, including a 75-yard catch and run by Cortez Hall on a screen.
When Montana tried a fake field goal late in the first half and had it stuffed, Lopez quickly found Jakobi Byrd for 64 yards and a 17-16 lead at 1:48 of the second quarter.
“They had a good plan in terms of alleviating some of our pressure,” Hauck said of the Lions. “They’re a physical team and they tackle well. We helped them a little bit, probably, and so at halftime we just said, ‘Our stuff’s good; our plan is sound. We just need to play better.’ “
Sneed finished 24 of 38 passing for 269 yards. He also had a 1-yard scoring run in the first half. Backup quarterback Cam Humphrey added a 12-yard scoring pass to Nick Ostmo in the fourth quarter for the Griz, who also got a 3-yard scoring run from Drew Turner.
Their 61 points are the most scored by a North Alabama opponent. Previously Jacksonville State rolled up 60 on the Lions in 1971.
Knight ran for 89 yards and three scores for Montana.
Meanwhile Lopez, who saw a promising opening drive end in a tip-drill interception by Robby Hauck, went through the third quarter without a completion. Cornerback Gavin Robertson and defensive end Alex Gubner added interceptions in the period, running Lopez’ total to three. He had two interceptions all of last season.
“The first one was big,” Coach Hauck said. “And Gavin’s was big because it was kind of a dagger for them. Those interceptions were good opportunities for our team. Turnovers are relevant. You get turnovers you’ve got a chance to win games.”
Lopez finished 14-of-33 passing for 320 yards. Byrd had six catches for a game-high 103 receiving yards.