KALISPELL — Montana quarterback Dalton Sneed opened the Grizzlies’ spring game spreading the ball to established wide receivers Jerry Louie-McGee and Sammy Akem.
The returning Big Sky Conference newcomer of the year mixed in a pass each to tight ends Colin Bingham and Bryson Deming on that drive before the backup quarterbacks took over on Saturday at Legends Stadium.
As the scrimmage progressed, wide receivers Samori Toure, Malik Flowers and Mitch Roberts were among those targeted more by quarterbacks Cam Humphrey, Garret Graves and Wheeler Harris as the Griz showcased their depth at receiver.
“I thought the scrimmage was solid,” Montana head coach Bobby Hauck said following the Maroon team’s 28-17 win over the Silver team. “I thought the tackling was pretty good. It was pretty physical. Some of our wide receivers made some plays. So, it was good to see. Obviously, there’s some ups, some downs. That’s the nature of spring practice. But it was solid at the least.”
In total, nine wide receivers and tight ends combined to catch 23 passes for 278 yards in what appeared to be the offense’s most efficient, successful outing in three scrimmages. Toure led the way with five receptions for 99 yards, highlighted by a 64-yard touchdown grab from Harris, who completed all three of his pass attempts for 106 yards and a touchdown late in the game.
It was Akem, a second-team all-conference wideout last year, who provided the early highlights. On the opening drive, he had a 36-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Sneed, who finished 4-of-5 passing for 65 yards. On the third drive, Akem snagged a 9-yard touchdown pass from Humphrey in the front right corner of the end zone as the coverage broke down but still left him double covered.
“I think we proved that if you give us a chance, we’re going to make the plays,” Akem said of the wide receivers this spring. “I just think that’s what we got to do consistently because that’s what we can do as a receiver group. Just continue to prove that if you throw it out there we’re going to make plays.”
Humphrey engineered an impressive drive in the second half that went 74 yards on 18 plays while playing with the first-team offensive line and second-string skill players. Displaying the consistency he’s worked on and getting time from the offensive line, he completed three of four third-down passes, connecting with Deming for 8 yards, Roberts for 14 yards and Deming for 7 yards. After a throwaway on the fourth third down, he connected with Roberts on fourth down for 7 yards to move the chains.
Humphrey also led a 47-yard drive that resulted in a 35-yard field goal by Gabe Peppenger to close the first half. He finished 13-of-26 passing for 95 yards with one touchdown. He singled out Flowers, who had four catches for 54 yards, and Roberts, who had four catches for 20 yards, as up-and-coming guys who had a good spring.
“You got to have solid guys on the outside to be able to dish the ball to them,” Humphrey said of the receivers. “It’s tough when you only have one or two guys and you got to build your offense around them, but when you’ve got a corps like ours where everybody’s consistent, can play the ball really well, there’s not much more you can ask for.”
Bingham grabbed three passes for 18 yards to lead the tight end group that mixes in run blocking, pass blocking and catching passes. He highlighted the increased physical play of Deming, who had 18 yards on two receptions, and Matt Rensvold, who had an 8-yard catch.
Bingham also gave props to the defense this spring. The defenses combined for nine tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and eight pass breakups, including a jarring hit on sophomore receiver Gabe Sulser, who finished with one catch for 6 yards. Redshirt freshman safety Jace Schneider, a former linebacker, led the way with eight tackles.
“It’s been a real pain going against them every day,” Bingham said. “They make it tough to execute.”
Redshirt freshman Nick Germer, junior Danny Burton and redshirt freshman Jackson Groff were the only wide receivers without a reception. Germer was targeted four times and dropped a pass when he was wide open over the middle. Burton had two passes thrown his way and missed a diving catch for a potential 42-yard score in the end zone.
Transfer running back Marcus Knight carried the ball six times for 56 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown run. Hauck said Knight “had a good spring, particularly after spring break.” Returning starter Adam Eastwood ran 12 times for 37 yards and a 2-yard score. Redshirt freshman Drew Turner had a rushing touchdown on four carries for 8 yards.
Senior safety Josh Sandry had the lone interception, picking off Graves on what Sandry thought was an attempt by Graves to throw the ball out of bounds. Graves, who’s competing for playing time as the backup quarterback or elsewhere, completed 6 of 15 passes for 9 yards.
Sandry returned Bingham’s kind words about the defense and said the offense has “given us fits, too.”
“They’re great athletes,” Sandry said of the wide receivers. “… We got a lot of playmakers, and it’s going to be fun this fall.”