MISSOULA, Mont. – Joey Counts scored on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal with 2 seconds left to give Montana a 38-35 victory over four-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State on Saturday.
Playing their first game under coach Bob Stitt, the Grizzlies rallied to stun the No. 1-ranked Bison in hazy conditions at jam-packed Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Counts’ touchdown capped a 15-play, 80-yard drive that started with 1:39 left.
Brady Gustafson was 30-for-55 for 434 yards and three touchdowns in his first start for Montana. He completed passes of 15 yards to Jamaal Jones and 31 yards to Reese Carlson on the winning drive.
Despite smoke from forest fires, a stadium-record 26,472 fans showed up for the Football Championship Subdivision showdown.
Montana tied it at 28 in the third quarter on Gustafson’s 62-yard pass to Ellis Henderson. The Bison took the lead on King Frazier’s 7-yard scoring run with 10:37 left in the game.
The Bison got the ball back with 9:19 left on Gustafson’s fumble, but Montana’s Kendrick Van Ackeren recovered a fumble on a bad exchange on a handoff by Wentz.
The Grizzlies pulled within four on Daniel Sullivan’s 28-yard field goal with 3:33 left, then forced a three-and-out, setting up the winning drive.
Gustafson also had TD passes of 7 yards to Jones and 38 yards to Ben Roberts.
Roberts, a senior who spent three seasons playing baseball at Washington State, made a leaping grab between two defenders in the second quarter.
North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz ran for two touchdowns and threw scoring strikes of 27 yards to Chase Morlock and 10 yards to Zach Vraa.
Wentz was 16-for-28 for 198 yards and ran for 70 yards on 13 carries.
John Nguyen rushed for 86 yards for Montana and the Grizzlies had 544 yards of offense. □