MISSOULA — Two weeks ago in Pocatello, Idaho, the Montana Grizzlies defeated Idaho State by a closer than normal margin because mistakes played a big part in that.
On Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, miscues were once again the story, but the result different, as No. 3 Montana lost its first game of the season, this time to the Idaho Vandals.
The Vandals capitalized on a number of Montana mistakes to win the Little Brown Stein and defeat Montana for the first time since 1999.
"I just can't say enough about our players, our guys who are here that when we got here just how they've bought into everything that we've talked about," Idaho coach Jason Eck said. "No one thought we could win, I saw everybody's predictions, no one predicted us to win this game but the guys in our building believed and we found a way to do it and I just can't say enough, so proud of these guys, great win."
The Vandals had the ball for 42 minutes and 8 seconds of game time, while Montana's time of possession was 17:52. Because of that, Montana's plays were limited, and the Griz didn't run the ball much with Xavier Harris, Marcus Knight and Nick Ostmo running just 10 times combined.
The Griz also didn't take advantage of the ball when they had it, going just 4 for 11 on third down.
"We only had 56 plays and we weren't very good on third down and so there aren't very many attempts at anything with 56 plays," Griz coach Bobby Hauck said. "That's like a bad NFL game."
That Vandals used a long drive to start the game up 3-0, but Montana quickly responded when Junior Bergen made arguably the play of the year with a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone to make it 6-3 Griz.
Montana found moments of success, including an interception by Patrick O'Connell that the Grizzlies ultimately turned into a touchdown in the second quarter.
But self-inflicted errors, coupled with Idaho's up-to-the task football team, hurt Montana everywhere.
A roughing the passer call on Henry Nuce extended Idaho's final drive of the first half, and the Vandals turned that into points to make it a 13-12 deficit at the break.
"We've got to quit making mistakes," Hauck said. "Fundamentally we were fine today, I would think. Got to quit making mistakes. Can't give the other team the ball, can't go 4-11 on third down, got to run the ball better, can't drop it."
The Vandals surprised Montana with an onside kick to start the third quarter, which they turned into a field goal.
Then late in the third, after being forced to punt, the Griz were whistled for a late hit out of bounds on Trevin Gradney that put Idaho on Montana's 43, and in one play, Gevani McCoy hit Hayden Hatten for a deep touchdown to extend the lead to 22-13.
Montana moved quick on the next drive to get into the red zone in two plays, but couldn't get into the end zone, including a drop by Keelan White on third down, so the Griz settled for a field goal.
Idaho's next drive went over seven minutes to start the fourth quarter, including a fourth and one run by Anthony Woods that appeared close either way, but was called a first down and wasn't challenged by Montana or sent to further review.
"Every play in college football is reviewed, so you can call timeout and challenge it, but every play is reviewed and if it's questionable they're supposed to stop it, so if they didn't shame on them, but every play in college football is reviewed," Hauck explained. "So if they didn't have a good camera angle on it and they couldn't overturn it, they probably let it go."
Hauck said the reason he didn't challenge it is because the percentage of it getting overturned was against them.
"It's like 97% against when you do that," Hauck said. "Like I said every play is reviewed so if there's a question in their mind they stop it so that's sort of irrelevant."
While Idaho eventually punted, the turnover bug bit the Grizzlies, as Lucas Johnson threw an interception deep in Vandal territory to Paul Moala, and then threw another with four minutes to play to Tommy McCormick that Idaho turned into a score and essentially sealed the game on.
"We can't turn the ball over in a game like that, especially, we turn it over and they're going to sit in their huddle for 40 seconds every play," Hauck said. "You can't turn it over especially when you're down. When you're up, go ahead, bleed it out, but when they took the lead, then things change, and turning the ball over is never a positive."
Hauck was candid after the game, saying the loss starts with him, and there's a laundry list of things to correct going forward.
"I don't want to take anything away from Idaho, like I said good job by them, they came in and won the game but I'm plenty pissed starting with the guy in the mirror and we did not do very well," Hauck said. "We didn't coach well, we didn't play well, and we lost the game."
Montana (5-1, 2-1 Big Sky) will look to rebound quickly from this loss as the Grizzlies get set for a ranked FCS matchup next week on the road at No. 5 Sacramento State (6-0, 3-0).