MISSOULA — Montana tight ends Colin Bingham and Bryson Deming shared some pregame laughs and proceeded to smile to a cheering crowd in the game against Monmouth on Saturday as they combined to score four touchdowns.
Bingham, a senior from Missoula Big Sky, and Deming, a sophomore from Billing West, each caught two touchdowns passes to help the 19th-ranked Griz earn a 47-27 win at Washington-Grizzly Stadium to close out non-conference play with a 3-1 record.
Montana’s tight ends, who had been primarily blockers, had three touchdown catches all of last year.
“We were kind of joking about it pregame, me and Bryson, but it’s always fun to help the team out, get some first downs,” Bingham said. “The O-line did a great job protecting, (quarterback) Dalton (Sneed) did a great job finding us, and then the coaches put together a good game plan to get everyone open, I thought.”
Bingham finished with four catches for 72 yards, including a 30-yard grab on the touchdown drive that helped Montana lengthen its 33-27 lead. Deming caught four passes for 46 yards and his first two career touchdowns.
Montana coach Bobby Hauck added sophomore wide receiver Mitch Roberts into the mix of those who had big receiving days when asked about the tight ends. Roberts, a Missoula Sentinel grad, had five catches for a team-high 80 yards.
“The tight ends and Mitch Roberts had a big day,” Hauck said. “Everybody of those three, Mitch and our two tight ends, really caught the ball well and got good, hard yards after catch and after contact. Dalton was seeing it well and found the right guys. It was fun. I thought the offensive coaches had a nice plan and did a really good job against them.”
Bingham’s first touchdown came on a trick play when Sneed threw backwards to wide receiver Samori Toure, who got a block on the outside from Deming and connected with Bingham for 24 yards and a 21-7 lead in the second quarter. The second score was a 9-yard pass lofted from Sneed to go up 27-14 on the opening drive of the second quarter.
Deming’s 23-yard touchdown catch from Sneed provided the first score of the game, and his 4-yard receiving score from Sneed capped the scoring at 47-27.
“They’re good. They’re big. They run well. They’re strong. They’re very, very good players,” Monmouth coach Kevin Callahan said. “That’s something coming into the game that we were aware of. They did get us a couple times down the middle of the field for some long ones.
“One early we had a missed assignment in the coverage, and the guy was wide open down the field. But they were able to just get the ball into the heart of the defense in the coverage and pick up some key first downs. They’re very good players.”
The emergence of the tight ends adds another dimension to Montana’s offense when teams try to take away the receivers on the outside, like Monmouth did.
“The wide receivers in three games leading up to today played pretty well,” Hauck said. “You can do some coverage things that are a little looser on the inside, a little tighter on the outside, and Dalton did a good job finding them and these guys did a good job catching it.”
Montana’s defense gave up 393 passing yards but limited Monmouth’s rushing offense to just 81 yards after it came in running for 180.3 yards on average. Running back Pete Guerriero, who came in second in the FCS with 131 yards per game, was limited to 47 yards on 18 carries.
Hauck said the goal coming into the game was to hold the Hawks to 50 rushing yards, a lofty goal he felt they nearly accomplished if they had defended some jet sweeps better.
“If you take away the two jet sweeps that I think they probably got 20 yards on those two plays or maybe a little more, a play we practiced all week and didn’t effectively defend a couple of times, if you take those two out, it was a pretty dang good effort by our defense,” Hauck said. “They’re swarming. They’re getting off blocks. And they’re tackling well.”
Montana senior linebacker Dante Olson said setting goals like holding a team to 50 rushing yards motivates the defense.
“It fires us up,” he offered. “It’s exciting to see a team that’s averaging almost 200 yards a game to try to hold them under 50. We didn’t get it done, but (we’ll) make some new goals this week.”
For Callahan, going up against Montana’s unique 3-3-5 defense required adjustments that weren’t made effectively enough.
“I thought they did a good job of inserting linebackers and bringing some pressure — not necessarily pass-down pressures, but run pressures, and it made it difficult to sustain some of the blocks,” Callahan said.
Flowers powers on
Malik Flowers broke a 7-7 tie when he posted his second career kickoff return touchdown and his first since Sept. 15, 2018.
The 100-yard return is the longest in the modern history of Montana, surpassing a 99-yard run by Damon Boddie at Idaho in 1993. The all-time school record is 102 yards by Milt Popovich in 1936, before the NCAA changed a rule that doesn’t allow for yards in the end zone to be counted.
“When I got to Colorado, Colorado had been 20 years without returning a kickoff for a touchdown,” Hauck said. “It’s hard to do. We kind of expect our guys to do it here and there within a season. That’s the expectation of the guys on that team.
“We didn’t anticipate they’d kick it to us, and they did. We actually missed a block at the point of attack, but Eli Alford ended up getting two, Bingham ended up accounting for a looper that we hadn’t practiced. Then obviously he just ran a little weave on the kicker, and it was pretty smooth sailing.”