MISSOULA - The anxiety at Washington-Grizzly Stadium was about to erupt into full-blown panic.
On a rainy, chilly day, the Montana Grizzlies were making mistakes, missing opportunities and, most maddening to the 19,489 fans, losing to a team they were supposed to be beating.
But that's when Cole Bergquist, Chase Reynolds and a giant support staff (a.k.a. the offensive line) put everything back together.
Reynolds rushed for a career-high 233 yards and Bergquist added touchdowns through the air and on the ground as the Griz knocked off Texas State 31-13 Saturday in the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Montana (12-1) advanced to next week's quarterfinal round, where it will host Weber State which beat Cal Poly 49-35.
"I don't doubt this group a whole bunch," said sixth-year Montana coach Bobby Hauck. "They are guys that will fight you to the finish. There's no quit in them. Nobody on our team signs up for 30 minutes. You sign up for 60 every Saturday."
Trailing 10-0 late in the second quarter, Bergquist and Co. put together a clutch drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to Marc Mariani in the corner of the south end zone with just 16 seconds on the clock.
That score propelled a dominating performance by Reynolds and the Grizzlies' offensive front, which combined to produce 167 yards and three rushing touchdowns in the second half.
Reynolds, who was admittedly oblivious to his jaw-dropping statistics afterward, carried the ball 21 times in the second half and scored two touchdowns. He had 38 carries total, and averaged 6.1 yards per attempt.
"I had no clue," Reynolds said of his final numbers. "I thought I had maybe 150 (yards) or something.
"I see (I had) 38 carries. That's quite a bit. But I feel great and I'm ready to put in another week of work."
Reynolds has now rushed for 1,228 yards this season, the fifth-most in school history. With 17 rushing touchdowns, Reynolds has tied the single-season school record shared by Yohance Humphery (2001) and Lex Hilliard (2004).
The game ended in grand fashion for Montana. It did not start out that way.
After giving up a field goal on the Bobcats' first possession of the game, the Grizzlies struggled to counter. Bergquist missed some easy passes on the team's first drive then was intercepted by Morris Crosby on the following drive when Mike Ferriter, Bergquist's intended target, fell down while running his route.
Meanwhile, Texas State was executing. After that turnover the Bobcats upped their lead to 10 points when quarterback Bradley George hooked up with receiver Cameron Luke for a touchdown to silence the home fans.
A year after suffering a home loss to Wofford in the first round of the playoffs, the Griz found themselves in familiar, troubling territory.
"They were up 10 and had the ball, and it was looking bleak," said Hauck, who improved his playoff record to 6-5. "But the good news is we have a resilient bunch of guys and we have a lot of know-how on our coaching staff.
"We gave them hope, and then we choked it out of them."
It was the late drive in the first half that got the Grizzlies going.
Montana scored on the 10-play, 89-yard march that took 3:49 off the clock, culminating with Bergquist's perfectly-placed pass - under duress - to Mariani.
Before that, the Grizzlies ran Reynolds four times while Bergquist found tight end Steven Pfahler twice and ran the ball two other times himself.
And as Hauck rightly pointed out, clock management was a key at that juncture as Montana left Texas State with no time with which to work before the break.
"It wasn't just the touchdown that sprung us, it was the whole drive," Bergquist said. "We just established our offense and it really got us going, especially right before half."
With Texas State threatening to increase its double-digit lead in the first quarter, Montana's defense came up with a crucial takeaway when defensive lineman Craig Mettler forced a fumble on Bobcats running back Karrington Bush, which was recovered by Jace Palmer at the Grizzlies' 31 yard line.
Montana had three takeaways overall, including a fumble recovery near its goal line midway through the fourth quarter that snuffed out an important Bobcats drive.
"Today was a big game for the front seven - the line and us linebackers," said Grizzlies linebacker Tyler Corwin, who had a second-half interception. "We knew going in that we had to stop their run and force the quarterback to throw the ball."
Unlike George, Bergquist had trouble negotiating the wet conditions early in the game. Bergquist said he needed a dry towel on every series and that the ball was hard to hold on to when he got it in his hands.
Despite his missed passes, Bergquist recovered a botched snap early in the game, then lost one on fourth down near the goal line later in the first quarter.
"The balls were a lot slicker than I thought they were, and I couldn't really get a good grip on them," Bergquist said. "I overthrew a couple guys. That really didn't help our offense get off to a good start.
"But we did a good job. We didn't lose confidence and we knew we had a good game plan. We caught on later."
Bergquist completed 13 of 23 passes for 177 yards. George, by comparison, went 21-for-33 with 256 yards.
The Bobcats' top rusher was Stan Zwinggi, who had 61 yards on nine carries. Bush, who came into the game averaging over eight yards per rush, was held to just 29 yards on seven attempts.
Second-year Texas State coach Brad Wright said the Grizzlies won the game at the line of scrimmage, where they rumbled for 286 rushing yards as a team.
"I guess we need a lot of work in the weight room," Wright said. "They just started to hand the ball off in the middle of the second quarter and that's really the difference in the football game."
Wright added: "I think more than anything they decided just to line up and run it down our throats. And that's what they did."
NOTES: Texas State finished the season 8-5. … Mariani's status before the game was questionable due to a leg injury suffered last week against Montana State. … Bergquist has now thrown 55 career touchdown passes, which ties him with Grady Bennett for third on Montana's all-time list. Bergquist also moved into fourth on the career list with 6,882 passing yards. … Ferriter, with 64 yards receiving, went over 2,000 for his career. … George played parts of three seasons (2000-02) with the Billings Mustangs as a pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds' farm system. … Teams from the Southland Conference are now 0-10 in playoff games against Montana since 1995.
Texas St. 10 0 3 0 - 13
Montana 0 7 14 10 - 31
TxSt - FG Ireland 47, 10:51.
TxSt - Luke 16 pass from George (Ireland kick), 4:33.
Mont - Mariani 14 pass from Bergquist (McKnight kick), :16.
Mont - Bergquist 21 run (McKnight kick), 11:47.
Mont - Reynolds 4 run (McKnight kick), 5:14.
TxSt - FG Ireland 25, 3:22.
Mont - Reynolds 1 run (McKnight kick), 12:50.
Mont - FG McKnight 37, 2:49.
A - 19,489.
First downs 21 26
Rushes-yards 24-99 52-286
Passing 270 177
Comp-Att-Int 22-36-1 13-23-2
Return Yards 13 16
Punts-Avg. 4-35.3 3-32.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-0
Penalties-Yards 8-86 6-70
Time of Possession 24:38 35:22
RUSHING - Texas St., Zwinggi 9-61, Bush 7-26, Rivas 1-13, Toon 1-10, Canady 3-9, LeBlanc 1-6, George 2-(-26). Montana, Reynolds 38-233, Bergquist 10-54, Schmidt 1-4, Team 3-(-5).
PASSING - Texas St., George 21-33-1-259, Toon 1-3-0-11. Montana, Bergquist 13-23-2-177.
RECEIVING - Texas St., Luke 5-75, Rivas 5-56, Canady 3-4, Dillard 2-65, Griggs 2-33, Zwinggi 1-17, Bolden 1-14, Anderson 1-4, Bush 1-3, LeBlanc 1-(-1). Montana, Mariani 4-49, Ferriter 3-64, Pfahler 2-36, Beaudin 1-12, Sambrano 1-8, Klaboe 1-7, Schmidt 1-1.