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Live coverage: No. 9 Montana Grizzlies at Northern Arizona

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Montana at Northern Arizona pregame photo

Montana junior defensive lineman DeAri Todd warms up prior to the Grizzlies' game at Northern Arizona on Saturday at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Live coverage from the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Arizona as the Montana Grizzlies visit Northern Arizona University.

Pregame

UM is 7-2 overall, 4-2 in the Big Sky. NAU is 4-5, 3-3.

Last week, UM pitched its first shutout in over a decade when it won 35-0 at Northern Colorado. NAU suffered a 40-24 home loss to UC Davis.

The Grizzlies hold has a 36-14 advantage since the series began in 1966, going 20-5 at home and 16-9 at NAU. UM has lost two consecutive games at NAU, last winning in 2011, 28-24.

The last time they met was 2017 in Missoula when the Grizzlies won 17-15. UM lost its last game at NAU, 45-34, in 2016.

Montana true freshman WR Aaron Fontes has been out here the past several minutes fielding punts before most of the team came out. He’s been the primary punt returner lately but has dropped a punt each of the past two weeks and caught one in the end zone.

Senior right tackle Dylan Cook is going through warmups as the No. 2 behind true freshman Brandon Casey after not playing last week. Junior nose tackle Eli Alford is going through stretches but not pregame drills after getting injured in the first quarter last week. True freshman Noah Kaschmitter is taking second-team reps behind sophomore Alex Gubner.

Northern Arizona wins the coin toss and defers to the second half. Montana will receiving the opening kickoff. It's only the second time this season (and the second consecutive week) that UM will start with the ball. Malik Flowers is back at kick returner.

First quarter

Xavier Harris starting at RB for Montana. AJ Forbes back at center, Moses Mallory back at right guard. Brandon Casey at right tackle again for Dylan Cook. Montana picks up one first down but ends up punting on its opening drive. Griz were hurt as Cam Humphrey got sacked by Eloi Kwete. UM gave up a season-high five sacks last week with an O-line that had two starters at their regular positions. This week it's four starters.

Northern Arizona true freshman QB Niko Haen makes his first career start. The Lumberjacks played four QBs last week. Haen picks up a third down with his feet, but the Griz get a stop on the second set of downs, force a punt. Aaron Fontes fair catches the punt at the 33.

Montana true freshman Isiah Childs starts the second drive at RB after Xavier Harris got the first drive. Montana QB Cam Humphrey has had to try to escape the pocket and scramble a few times as the Griz wide receivers are being covered well by Northern Arizona. Two drives, two punts for UM.

Montana brings pressure on third-and-6, Niko Haen just gets the ball out to RB Kevin Daniels on a screen pass, but poor tackling by the Griz allows him to pick up a first down. Daniels then rushes for 22 yards to the NAU 48-yard line on the next play. Northern Arizona false starts out of a timeout on third-and-3. Pat O'Connell, just added to Buck Buchanan Award watch list, plasters QB Niko Haen as Haen unloads an incomplete pass. Montana forces a second punt in as many drives. Robby Hauck at punt returner this drive.

Penalty calls have been going in Montana's favor with 3:00 left in the first quarter. Northern Arizona has been called for 4 for 31 yards. Griz haven't been penalized yet. Montana picks up one first down via penalty but then punts for the third time in three drives. Northern Arizona's defenders have had some tight coverage on pass attempts, although Ryan Simpson did drop a first-down pass when he was open.

Montana LB Jace Lewis comes up the middle seemingly untouched to sack Northern Arizona QB Niko Haen on third-and-6 on the final play of a scoreless first quarter.

End first quarter: Montana 0, Northern Arizona 0

Second quarter

Aaron Fontes is at punt returner on the third punt. He had the first and Robby Huack had the second. Fontes leaves this bouncing punt alone. Griz will start at their own 23-yard line after a 63-yard punt by DJ Arnson.

Montana redshirt freshman TE Cole Grossman gets wide, wide open over the middle of the field, and he goes 44 yards on the catch-and-run down to the Northern Arizona 8-yard line. That came two plays after a 26-yard pass to Mitch Roberts. Montana true freshman RB Isiah Childs rushes for an 8-yard touchdown. Second consecutive game with a TD in his return from injury. 5 plays, 77 yards in 1:40.

SCORE: Griz 7, Northern Arizona 0, with 13:10 left in the second quarter.

Wow, someone actually dared to return a kickoff against Montana, and Northern Arizona's Draycen Hall returns it 53 yards to the Griz 47-yard line. Fairfield grad Ryder Meyer with the tackle. Montana had just scored to go up 7-0. Montana forces a three-and-out after giving up that big punt return that allowed Northern Arizona to start in Griz territory. Robby Hauck back for the fourth punt return of the day; he and Aaron Fontes have each had two punt return attempts.

Haven't seen Junior Bergen line up at RB today as Montana has gotten some RBs back from injury. He's been in the slot today, playing the WR position that he was recruited to play. He had moved to RB just over a week before the season opener because of injuries. Creative play on third-and-8 for QB Cam Humphrey as he escapes a collapsing pocket, fakes a run and sneaks in a pass to RB Xavier Harris to move the chains. Griz are 3 of 3 on third downs this drive.

Montana gets down to the Northern Arizona 10-yard line before settling for a 27-yard field goal attempt from the left hash. Kevin Macias converts the kick in front of a diving rusher. 16 plays, 70 yards in 6:00.

SCORE: Griz 10, NAU 0, with 5:00 left in the second quarter.

Montana forces a three-and-out. The Griz are giving up just 62 yards on 22 plays (2.8 yards per play). Here's the Northern Arizona drive chart: Punt, Punt, Punt (3 and out; minus-6 yards), Punt (3 and out; 1 yard), Punt (3 and out; 1 yard).

Redshirt freshman Cale Millen in at QB for Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks pick up their first, first down since their second drive of the game. This is their sixth drive. Montana LB Jace Lewis with a TFL on 3rd down. He has 3 TFLs and 2 sacks through 6 drives. Northern Arizona punts for the 6th time, but David Koppang is called for roughing the kicker, giving NAU a 1st down at its own 47-yard line with about 1 minute left in the 1st half.

Montana overcomes that 15-yard roughing the kicker penalty to force a sixth punt in six drives. The Griz will start at their own 29-yard line with 34 seconds left in the half as they try to build on their 10-0 lead. Montana with some quick passes to set up a 49-yard field goal from the left hash. Senior Kevin Macias drills the career-long field goal in the Flagstaff altitude of about 7,000 feet. That might've been good from 60-65 yards. 6 plays, 39 yards in 0:34.

SCORE: Griz 13, Northern Arizona 0, 0:00 left in the Q2.

End second quarter: Montana 13, Northern Arizona 0

Third quarter

Montana senior Kevin Macias kicked off to start the second half, sending the ball 65 yards for a touchback. It's the first time this season he's kicked off. Freshman Redshirt Brian Buschini had handled all 51 kickoffs coming into this game.

Montana starts the second half by forcing a three-and-out, but true freshman Aaron Fontes fumbles a punt for the third consecutive game. This time, Northern Arizona recovers the ball at the Montana 29-yard line. It's only a two-score game with the Griz up 13-0. Northern Arizona gets on the board as kicker Luis Aguilar converts a 43-yard field goal. That comes on a short field following Aaron Fontes' punt return fumble. It ends Montana's scoreless streak at 108 minutes, 54 seconds

SCORE: Griz 13, NAU 3, with 12:34 left in the third quarter.

Montana gets down to the Northern Arizona 30-yard line before QB Cam Humphrey is intercepted by Devontae Ingram at the 20-yard line. Ingram returns the ball 56 yards to the UM 24-yard line. Griz lead is 13-3 early in the third quarter.

Montana sophomore CB Corbin Walker to the rescue. He intercepts Cale Millen's pass in the end zone on third-and-8 from the UM 22-yard line. First INT for him since the 2019 second-round playoff game against Southeastern Louisiana, which was a pick-6.

Montana junior LB Pat O'Connell with a 14-yard fumble return TD. Junior safety Robby Hauck lays the hit on Northern Arizona QB Cale Millen, forcing the fumble. O'Connell had a fumble recovery TD overturned vs. Cal Poly.

SCORE: Griz 20, NAU 3, with 4:55 left in the third quarter.

Montana backup QB Kris Brown comes in at QB after Cam Humphrey takes a sack to start this drive. Humphrey is quickly back in after a couple plays. Now wide receiver Ryan Simpson is down but walks off mostly on his own.

End third quarter: Montana 20, Northern Arizona 3

Fourth quarter

Northern Arizona runs a fake punt and catches Montana off guard as Tristen Vance rushes for 25 yards to the Montana 37-yard line. Griz up 20-3 with about 14 minutes to play. Northern Arizona goes for it on fourth-and-2 from the Montana 29-yard line. Alex Gubner and Robby Hauck combine to tackle QB Niko Haen for no gain. Griz up 20-3 with 12:38 to play.

Robbie Patterson comes in at QB for one play to run the ball 2 yards to the Northern Arizona 9-yard line. Cam Humphrey limps back in. Griz up 20-3 and looking to put this game away.

Montana senior kicker Kevin Macias makes his third field goal of the day, this one 24 yards from the right hash. 7 plays, 64 yards in 3:38. Macias has made 9 consecutive field goals and is 13 of 17 this season.

SCORE: Griz 23, Northern Arizona 0, with 9:00 left in the fourth game.

Montana junior cornerback Justin Ford with an interception for the eighth (yes, 8th) consecutive game. The Lousiville transfer has been unreal this season.

Montana sophomore safety Garrett Graves with a 25-yard interception return touchdown. Third INT by the Griz today. Second vs Niko Haen. Cale Millen also has been picked off once.

SCORE: Griz 30, Northern Arizona 3, with 71 seconds to play.

FINAL: Montana 30, Northern Arizona 3

Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at frank.gogola@missoulian.com.

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