UM Grizzlies Begin Football Practice
Three different quarterbacks combined for seven touchdowns to lead the way in the first scrimmage of fall camp for The University of Montana Grizzlies on a hot Sunday afternoon in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
That offensive show was even more impressive considering sophomore quarterback Jordan Johnson will be out of the lineup for a few days and could not participate today due to an injury he suffered in practice last Friday.
Junior quarterback Gerald Kemp guided the number one offense today (Johnson and Kemp shared reps with the ones in the first week of practice), and the junior from San Diego had a banner day, especially running the football.
Kemp guided the team to seven-play 97-yard scoring drive on the first possession by the offense, as he connected with halfback Jordan Canada on a screen pass, and Canada, a redshirt freshman from Duarte, Calif., showed excellent speed and broke loose for a 29-yard touchdown. The key play in that opening scoring drive was a 55-yard run by junior halfback Peter Nguyen – his only carry of the scrimmage.
“There were quite a few plays that got open in space, and Gerald does a great job in that area,” said second-year head coach Robin Pflugrad. “We saw Jordan Canada and Peter Nguyen do that as well. Peter hit that long run in the first series.
“That was good to see those open space plays, however defensively we have to tackle much better in space,” Pflugrad said. “Our offense forces you do that, and we’re going to play a lot of teams that are similar to us on offense, so we need to shore that up.”
On the third possession by the offense redshirt freshman quarterback Shay Smithwick-Hann showed off his arm, throwing a 74-yard bomb to redshirt freshman wide receiver Sean Haynes, who broke a tackle and advanced the ball to the 23-yard line.
After the long completion by Smithwick Hann he completed a pair of passes to freshman halfback Gavin Hagfors for shorts gains, but then the drive was stopped after Hagfors fumbled the ball, and it was recovered by freshman cornerback Nate Harris.
Kemp scored on two of his next three possessions, both times on the ground, first from 30 yards out, and then on a 20-yard run.
Junior Nate Montana added a touchdown when he threaded a 5-yard pass to senior wide receiver C.J. Atkins who was barely open in the back of the endzone. That touchdown throw capped off a 21-yard drive, with the key play in that drive coming on a 12-yard completion by Montana to sophomore wide-out Cam Warren.
Starting from the opponents’ 21-yard line, Kemp got the offense on the scoreboard again for the fourth time, this one coming when he hit senior wide receiver Anton Moutra on the first play for a 21-yard touchdown pass which came on the first play from scrimmage.
Montana tallied the next score, when starting from the six-yard line of the defense, he culminated the short drive on a 1-yard touchdown run.
The final touchdown was also scored when the offense started on the six-yard line of the defense, as freshman quarterback Trent McKinney (Mililani, Hawaii) scored on a 6-yard run.
Kemp rushed nine times for 112 yards. Canada had three carries for 25 yards; junior halfback Dan Moore had five rushes for 20 yards; redshirt freshman Brent Kirschner added five totes for 17 yards; and senior Lance Carl picked up 12 yards on four attempts.
Passing-wise Kemp was 5-of-7 for 63 yards and two touchdowns; Montana completed 5-of-10 for 31 yards and a TD; Smithwick-Hann was 4-of-5 for 81 yards; and McKinney was 0-of-1.
“I am just learning ever day and trying to improve,” said Kemp. “Being able to operate an offense at this level is a very difficult thing. You have to learn every day and make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. Being able to operate this offense you also need to make quick decisions, and make good decisions and not turn the ball over. That was my focus coming into camp. We made some strides today, and I definitely felt a lot more comfortable out there.”
Carl was the only player with two receptions.
Defensively, senior tackle Bryan Waldhauser had a tackle for a safety (Kemp) and a sack. Senior end Bobby Alt, redshirt freshman end Zack Wagenmann, and freshman linebacker Addison Owen also had one sack apeice.
“I like a couple of our young players like Nate Harris at cornerback, and Canada and ‘Kirch” in the running game,” Pflugrad said. “It’s nice to have Dan Moore back too, because of his size (5-11, 235) he gives us a back with power and good speed.”
Senior Sean Wren looked solid in the punting game, averaging 44 yards on a pair of punts, and he boomed one that went 61 yards.
“It would be a bonus for us if Sean could stay consistent,” Pflugrad said. “I think (senior kicker/punter) Brody McKnight got a little fatigued later in the year from having to kick so much, and you could see that by how his punting averaged dropped as the season went on. Doing both (kicking and punting) is tough. It would be nice if Sean could take over our punting duties this season. We will see….”
The Grizzlies’ second scrimmage is next Saturday, August 20, starting around 10:10 a.m. in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. The game can be heard on Missoula’s Number One News Talk AM 1290 KGVO.