MISSOULA, Mont. — Jordan Johnson was quick to attribute his four-touchdown passing game Saturday to one thing — the Montana running attack.
“With us establishing the run game, I knew it would help the pass protection and give me time to throw the ball,” the Montana quarterback said.
Travon Van and Jordan Canada each ran for more than 100 yards to propel a Grizzly ground game to 378 total yards rushing as Montana toppled Portland State 55-27.
Johnson connected for three touchdowns with tight end Clay Pierson and once with wide receiver Cam Warren to help the Grizzlies improve to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in Big Sky Conference play.
Portland State, which fell to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big Sky, racked up 511 yards of total offense in a game that saw both teams combine for nearly 1,100 yards of offense.
“We gave up some huge plays, but we stopped their running game,” said Montana coach Mick Delaney. “Our goal going into the game was to stop the run and make them be one-dimensional. I think it worked.”
The Grizzlies never trailed, jumping to a 7-0 lead on a 36-yard pass from Johnson to Pierson with 12:22 to play in the first quarter.
Montana scored on five of its first six possessions to take a 35-20 halftime lead.
Johnson also connected with Warren on a 17-yard scoring strike. Van scored on a 42-yard scamper, Canada on a 2-yard run and Jordan Tripp on a fumble recovery in the end zone to round out the Grizzlies’ first-half scoring.
Portland State got first-half touchdowns on two Kieran McDonagh passes — 32 yards to Shaq Richard and 12 yards to Victor Dean — and a 22-yard pass from backup quarterback Paris Penn to Alex Toureen.
“We’re a better team than we showed,” was all Portland State coach Nigel Burton had to say after the game.
Twelve penalties for 108 yards and four turnovers, including two interceptions by Montana cornerback Anthony Goodwin, proved costly for the Vikings.
“All the things we needed to do well this week, we did,” Goodwin said.
In the second half, Pierson and Johnson hooked up on a 25-yard pass on the Grizzlies’ first possession to put Montana up 42-20. Pierson added his third touchdown of the game on a 10-yard pass from Johnson in the fourth quarter.
Dean caught a 71-yard TD pass from Collin Ramirez with 8:06 to play in the game to round out the Portland State scoring.
Van finished with 136 yards rushing on 14 carries, while Canada chipped in with 102 yards on 13 carries. Johnson completed 12 of 24 passes for 203 yards.
Dean led the Vikings’ attack with 118 yards on four catches. McDonagh completed 18 of 32 passes for 266 yards, but was picked off three times.
Delaney praised his team for staying focused on the important aspects of the game.
“It comes down to who does things best and who is the most disciplined,” Delaney said. “We are a very disciplined team.”