Griz spring game: Gustafson, defensive stop lift Maroon
(STATS) - They may not know the individual names at this point, but opponents are probably conceding the Montana defense will continue to have a fierce style after it finishes retooling.
The Griz return only three defensive starters for coach Bob Stitt's second season in Missoula.
There were some positive signs Saturday, and a defensive pass breakup helped the Maroon hold off the White 27-26 in UM's annual spring game before a few thousand rain-soaked fans at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.
The Maroon's Ryan McKinley got a hand on Chad Chalich's pass to Kobey Eaton in the end zone to stymie the White.
In addition to all the talent on the field, Montana lost popular defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak to rival Montana State after last season. Jason Semore, who had been with Stitt at Colorado School of Mines before UM, made the jump to defensive coordinator.
The Griz, who have finished in the top 10 in the FCS in sacks each of the past two seasons, added some transfers to a defense that will be led by converted defensive end Caleb Kidder as well as fellow returning starters Yamen Sanders and JR Nelson in the secondary. The trio combined for 36 starts last season, when the Griz went 8-5 with a win over North Dakota State before they lost to the Bison in a rematch in the FCS playoffs.
The offense is far more experienced. It should be explosive with eight returning starters, including 6-foot-7 quarterback Brady Gustafson, who threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns for the Maroon.
Kentucky transfer Reese Phillips passed for 233 yards on just eight completions for the White team.
The Griz will begin their 2016 schedule by hosting Saint Francis on Sept. 3.