MISSOULA — Montana football's coaching staff didn't script the first drive of the Grizzlies' spring game Saturday.
And junior quarterback Dalton Sneed flourished.
He connected with sophomore receiver Samuel Akem for 9 yards to start the day. His next pass went to senior wideout Keenan Curran for 7 yards. Then back to Akem for 6 more yards.
On Montana's first drive of the afternoon, Sneed & Co. marched 65 yards downfield and scored on a Sneed-to-Curran 16-yard touch pass to start the offense's 42-6 win over the defense.
"(It was a) pretty simple, single-man read," Sneed said of the touchdown pass. "Coach called a great play on that. The line gave me great time and Keenan made it real easy for me, ran a real good route."
Sneed added of the first-drive intensity: "I think it was people being focused, being ready to come out. We started preaching that in the locker room, getting the linemen together, getting the receivers together, getting the whole offense, said, 'Hey. First play. Let's go. Let's march it down and get it done.' And we did that."
By the end of the first half, Sneed racked up 136 yards passing and completed 13 of 16 passes — for a completion rate of 76.5 percent — with an interception and a touchdown. On the ground, Sneed had a single yard after being sacked once and tackled behind the line of scrimmage outside the pocket another time.
Last season's starting quarterback Gresch Jensen was slow coming out of the gate as his first two drives stalled. But on the third drive he showed some flashes from 2017.
The biggest play of the game came on third-and-5 when Jensen heaved a rainbow out to sophomore wide receiver Samori Toure, who hauled in the pass for a 50-yard touchdown.
Jensen finished the day with 123 yards passing and completed 5 of 9 passes — for a completion rate of 55 percent — with an interception and a touchdown. On the ground, Jensen had minus-4 yards rushing after being sacked on back-to-back plays in the first quarter.
Neither Sneed nor Jensen took snaps in the second half, leaving third-string quarterback Tanner Wilson of Polson in the pocket to get reps.
Wilson ended the afternoon with 103 yard passing and completed 6 of 10 passes — for a completion rate of 60 percent — with an interception and a touchdown. On the ground, Wilson had minus-6 yards rushing after being sacked.
The three quarterbacks spread the ball around to 13 receivers, tight ends or running backs. Toure led the charge with 94 yards on four receptions with a touchdown.
"I felt good. I felt like the offense, both units, were clicking all day," Toure said. "Today just seemed like a combination of all the work we've put in throughout spring ball, you know. I felt like it came together today."
Akem had 51 yards receiving on three receptions, Curran 40 yards on three catches and two touchdowns and redshirt-freshman wideout Malik Flowers 60 yards on two catches.
Other playmakers recording at least one catch were: junior wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee, redshirt-freshman running back Terron "Tuk" Moses, junior wide receiver Justin Calhoun, senior tight end Caleb Hill, sophomore tight end Brennan Corbin, sophomore wide receiver Danny Burton, junior tight end Colin Bingham, sophomore running back Josh Deshner and senior running back Cody McCombs.
"(This is the) best receiving corps I've been with hands down," Sneed said. "Guys knowing their routes, you can trust anybody on the field any time. It's beautiful. If someone goes down for some reason or if someone needs a play off, we have guys who can step in, do the job 100 percent. It's awesome."
Several ball carriers were in the mix too. Senior running back Alijah Lee only had four carries, but he led the charge with 32 yards rushing. Sophomore running back Rey Green had a solid day with 25 yards rushing on 10 carries and two touchdowns. McCombs had the third rushing touchdown of the afternoon.
Defensively, redshirt-freshman linebacker Marcus Welnel stood out yet again with seven tackles and senior linebacker Shayne Cochran was involved too with seven takedowns.
Three players recorded interceptions as well, including junior wideout-to-defensive back Kobey Eaton.
Eaton picked off Wilson in the third quarter and ran the ball back 15 yards for a pick-6.
"I consider it a little stepping stone," Eaton said of his interception. "There's always more that can be done and there's always room for improvement, but it's definitely good to see some light."
Montana head coach Bobby Hauck was pleased with some of the things he saw this spring, but not everything.
"I think we've improved in a lot of areas. From my purview, there are some things that have been exposed too," Hauck said. "I don't worry about the things we're doing well, I worry about the things I don't think we can do well. We're going to have to work around some of that."
With that, Montana's spring ball slate has concluded.
And one thing's certain from now until the start of fall camp: the brewing battle in the pocket is far from over.
"I'm just grateful for the chance to compete," Sneed said. "I want to come in here, do my best, show the coaches, the fans, my teammates what I can do. At the end of the day, you can only do what you can do in your own power and I feel like I'm competing my butt off and that's all I can ask for."