MISSOULA — The key players and position grades from Montana's 59-3 throttling of Central Washington on Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in its spring season opener.
Montana quarterbacks Cam Humphrey and Kris Brown led the Griz on seven consecutive scoring drives across the final three quarters after they were clinging to a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
Players of the game
Offense: Gabe Sulser. The 5-foot-9, 167-pound junior wide receiver from Billings had a team-best 62 yards and elevated to high point a pass from Cam Humphrey for a 13-yard TD reception while finishing with four catches.
Defense: Justin Ford. The 6-foot-2, 186-pound junior cornerback from Concord, North Carolina, filled up the stat sheet with five tackles, 2.5 TFLs and one PBU, all team highs, in his first game after transferring from Louisville.
Special teams: Gabe Sulser. The 5-foot-9, 167-pound junior returner from Billings flipped the field twice on special teams, returning a punt 46 yards to the CWU 8-yard line and a kickoff 54 yards to the Wildcats' 26-yard line.
Cam Humphrey was 19 of 31 for 235 yards, 3 TDs, scrambled well but missed open WRs, threw some ill-advised passes into double coverage and had a fluky TD pass. Kris Brown, looking poised, was 6 of 8 for 88 yards, 1 TD playing with and against a mix of first- and second-stringers.
Running backs/Fullbacks: B
With All-American Marcus Knight injured, sophomore Nick Ostmo carried the ball 14 times for 47 yards, 1 TD and caught four passes for 43 yards, 1 TD. True freshman Xavier Harris had 37 yards, 1 TD on 19 carries and two catches for 24 yards.
Wide receivers/Tight ends: A
Back from injury, Gabe Sulser had a team-high 62 receiving yards and one TD on four catches while Sammy Akem had 49 yards and 1 TD on three catches. Redshirt freshmen Keelan White (38 yards, 1 TD) and Ryan Simpson (45 yards) showed glimpses of what all the talk has been about.
Offensive line: B
Montana's starting line: left tackle Conlan Beaver, left guard Skyler Martin, center AJ Forbes, right guard Moses Mallory, right tackle Dylan Cook. The line helped the Griz put up 59 points, gather 529 years and didn't give up a sack but struggled with run blocking and creating running lanes.
Defensive line: A
UM held CWU to 178 yards on 57 plays and gave up just 3 points. The D-line got some pressure but didn't have a sack or TFL, coming close when Justin Belknap and Joe Babros combined for a 4th-and-1 stop. Jacob McGourin recovered a fumble. The sought-after depth looked to be there.
Marcus Welnel acquitted himself well in his first start with four tackles and 0.5 TFLs alongside returners Jace Lewis and Patrick O'Connell. Ryan Tirrell, Braxton Hill and Levi Janacaro debuted on defense as UM showed depth. Failed to convert on some all-out blitzes, giving up first downs.
Defensive backs: A
Gavin Robertson flew to the ball to pick off a pass. David Koppang tracked down an errant pass for an INT. Louisville transfer Justin Ford and junior Robby Hauck each led UM with 5 tackles. Ford has 2.5 of the team's 6 TFLs and 1 of 3 PBUs. Nash Fouch had 4 tackles, 1 PBU in his first start.
Special teams: A
Montana nearly broke off three special teams scores as Gabe Sulser had a 46-yard punt return and 54-kickoff return, and Malik Flowers had a 50-yard kickoff return. New kicker Jack Cooper made 1 of 2 FGs and all his PATs. Brian Buschini averaged 47.5 yards on punts, 58.8 yards on kickoffs.