Western Illinois needed just two plays to get on the board. Running back Steve McShane took the ball four yards on the first play from scrimmage and then on second down, fifth-year senior quarterback Sean McGuire threw a rainbow pass to wide receiver John Brunner for a 71-yard touchdown. Sam Crosa's PAT was good. SCORE: Western Illinois 7, Montana 0.
Montana's first drive wasn't fruitful, as the Grizzlies marched eight yards down the field before giving up a fumble. On the ensuing play, McGuire hit Brunner again for another touchdown, this time a 37-yard score. Crosa's PAT was good. SCORE: Western Illinois 14, Montana 0.
The shut out bid didn't last long. Grizzly redshirt freshman return man Malik Flowers returned Western's kickoff 95 yards to put Montana on the board. Flowers' touchdown was the first kick return score for the Grizzlies since 2013 when Ellis Henderson returned a kick for 98 yards against South Dakota. Tim Semenza's PAT was good. SCORE: Western Illinois 14, Montana 7.
With 10 minutes remaining in the first quarter, Montana pieced together a traditional 11-play scoring drive to take several minutes on the clock — the drive was capped by a 36-yard field goal by Semenza. SCORE: Western Illinois 14, Montana 10.
The Grizzlies took their first lead of the game after Sneed and Co. marched down the field on a 6-play drive, capped by a 4-yard score to Akem. Montana went with a fake PAT, and had holder Reid Miller pass to Grizzly long snapper Matthew O'Donoghue for the two points. SCORE: Montana 18, Western Illinois 14.
STAT OF QUARTER: Brunner already had 144 yards receiving by the time the first frame ended. His longest catch was a 71-yard dime to start the game.
Crosa kicked a near-career long 44-yard field goal to finish the Leathernecks' first drive of the second frame. SCORE: Montana 18, Western Illinois 17.
The Grizzly defense came up big, stopping another Western Illinois drive that marched down to the 13-yard line. Crosa's 30-yard field goal was no good.
Near the end of the half, Sneed found Samori Toure for what would have been a 55-yard touchdown to put Montana at the 2-yard line, but it was called back to due a holding penalty. Sneed was picked off by Western's Eric Carrera on the next play.
STAT OF THE QUARTER: The Grizzlies and the Leathernecks were both flagged three times for a combined 55 yards.
HALFTIME: Montana 18, Western Illinois 17
Montana got on the board first, thanks to an interception by Grizzly star linebacker Dante Olson. Olson's 25-yard return gave Montana the ball at the 20-yard line. Semenza nailed a 31-yard field goal after the Grizzlies went three-and-out inside the red zone. SCORE: Montana 21, Western Illinois 17.
STAT OF THE QUARTER: Western Illinois had just 38 yards of total offense in the third quarter.
While at the 6-yard line, Montana went for it on fourth-and-1. Adam Eastwood ran up the middle for no gain to turn the ball over inside the red zone.
The Montana defense forced the Leathernecks to go three-and-out on the next drive.
The Grizzlies followed suit with a 50-yard drive to pull ahead with 11:19 left on the clock. Sneed danced for 29 yards along the Western Illinois sideline to get Montana down to the 7-yard line. He found Samuel Akem for a 3-yard pass a few plays later. Semenza's PAT was no good. SCORE: Montana 27, Western Illinois 17.
Montana went three-and-out in its own territory and Western Illinois' Steve McShane returned a punt 58 yards to score. Crosa's PAT was good. SCORE: Montana 27, Western Illinois 24.
On the first play of Montana's next drive, Sneed threw a laser to Grizzly wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee, but he coughed up the ball at the Montana 43-yard line.
The Leathernecks regained possession in good field position and had their first lead since the first quarter. McGuire found McShane for an 11-yard touchdown after marching down the field for 49 yards. Crosa's PAT good. SCORE: Western Illinois 31, Montana 27.
FINAL: WESTERN ILLINOIS 31, MONTANA 27