MILES CITY, Mont. — A terrible start proved to be Team North Dakota’s undoing Saturday night at Connor Stadium.
Team Montana erupted for 29 unanswered points in the first quarter en route to a 43-29 victory in the 20th annual Badlands Bowl.
Montana scored all 29 first-quarter points in the first 13-plus minutes. It benefitted from two North Dakota turnovers and a long punt return.
“That first quarter was an eye-opening experience. Montana came out and took it right to us,” North Dakota coach Mark Gibson said. “That turned out to be the difference because after that we figured out that we could play with them. We made a run at them, but it was just too big a deficit to overcome.”
Montana didn’t waste much time getting on the scoreboard, with quarterback Quinn McQueary hitting Josh Horner with an 11-yard touchdown pass with just 1:52 gone in the first quarter. The 2-point conversion attempt was successful.
After a North Dakota three-and-out, a 40-yard punt return set up a 10-yard scoring pass from Dawson Reardon to Jacob Stanton with 9:08 left in the first.
Montana then converted back-to-back North Dakota fumbles into touchdowns. A 26-yard TD pass from McQueary to Kyle Griffith capped a seven-play, 56-yard drive. Reardon’s 15-yard TD toss to Josh Janssen with just under two minutes left in the first came four plays after North Dakota lost a fumble on its own 28-yard line. Griffith’s third PAT made it 29-0.
Montana filled the air with footballs in the first half, throwing 35 times. McQueary and Reardon combined for 26 completions for 229 yards, with Horner hauling in 10 aerials for 79 markers. For the game, Montana went 39-for-54 passing for 313 yards.
“They had a high-paced offense. It was get it and get rid of it,” Gibson said. “They were real quick and most of our kids hadn’t seen that kind of speed before. One thing that hurt us was we couldn’t establish a running game and keep their offense off the field. We felt that would be a big key for us.”
The North Dakotans came out of the halftime break on fire, taking the second-half kickoff and marching 54 yards to paydirt. Quarterback Ben Jolliffe of Bismarck finished the drive with a 12-yard keeper.
Later it appeared that Montana would add to its lead, but was denied by Bismarck’s Josh Seibel. From the Montana 38, Zach Bunney broke into the clear and didn’t stop running until Seibel caught him and stripped him of the ball near the North Dakota 8. The ball bounced into the end zone for a touchback.
North Dakota was forced to punt on each of its next two offensive possessions, but its defense closed the gap with a pair of interception returns. Bismarck’s Nick Goulet took back the first pick 39 yards with 4:23 left in the third quarter. Jolliffe’s 2-point pass to Dustin Iverson of Grant County-Flasher made it 29-14.
Just under two minutes later, Seibel picked off a pass and took it 27 yards to the end zone. His extra point made it a one-possession game, 29-21.
Goulet later returned another interception for a touchdown, but the score was wiped out by a defensive holding penalty.
Eight points would be the closest the North Dakotans would get.
“It was a tough break getting that touchdown called back. We definitely had the momentum,” Gibson said. “But I couldn’t have been more proud of the way the kids came back. They didn’t let what happened in the first quarter get them down. We were a different team in the third quarter. The kids played with more confidence and got themselves back in the game. It was a testament to the kind of kids they are.”
Montana broke a near 39-minute scoreless spell with Gunnar Brekke’s 1-yard plunge with 9:12 left in the contest.
After holding North Dakota on downs, Montana put together a 13-play, 70-yard TD drive, scoring on a 5-yard run by Brekke with 4:41 left.
Layne Johs of Bismarck later capped the scoring with a 3-yard run. Dan Arnold of Fargo Shanley added the 2-pointer on a pass from Trevor Zacher of Beulah.
Jolliffe was named North Dakota’s offensive player of the game. He completed six of 13 passes for 103 yards, and rushed for another 36. Seibel earned defensive player of the game honors.
Montana posted its 15th Badlands Bowl victory.
ND 0 0 21 8
Montana 29 0 0 14
M: Josh Horner 11 pass from Quinn McQueary (2-point attempt successful)
M: Jacob Stanton 10 pass from Dawson Reardon (Kyle Griffith kick)
M: Griffith 26 pass from McQueary (Griffith kick)
M: Josh Janssen 15 pass from Reardon (Griffith kick)
ND: Ben Jolliffe 7 run (run failed)
ND: Nick Goulet 39 interception return (Dustin Iverson pass from Jolliffe)
ND: Josh Seibel 27 interception return (Seibel kick)
M: Gunnar Brekke 1 run (Griffith kick)
M: Brekke 5 run (Griffith kick)
ND: Layne Johs 3 run (Dan Arnold pass from Trevor Zacher)
Rushing: ND — Layne Johs 13-45, Zach Reich 13-39, Ben Jolliffe 8-36, Seth Ewoniuk 2-14, Preston Lehman 4-6, Christian Lunde 1-4, Trevor Zacher 1-(-)6. M — Zach Bunney 14-116, Quinn McQueary 11-60, Cody Vitt 14-65, Gunnar Brekke 10-36, Dawson Reardon 2-(-)4.
Passing: ND — Jolliffe 6-13-1, 103 yards; Zacher 4-10-1, 71 yards. M — McQueary 24-30-3, 184 yards; Reardon 15-24-1, 129 yards.
Receiving: ND — Dustin Iverson 3-37, Dan Arnold 2-73, Jeff Illies 2-39, Lunde 2-28, Ewoniuk 1-7. M — Josh Horner 12-87, Josh Janssen 6-65, Kyle Griffith 5-44, Jacob Stanton 5-25, Gunnar Brekke 4-28, Austin Carver 3-34, Bunney 2-21, Bryce Armstrong 2-9.