190829 Western Illinois vs UNA 63

UNA's A.J. Bracey defends the pass against Western Illinois' Dennis Houston in the first half of the D1 opener at Braly Stadium. The Lions are expected to be tested by a good Montana passing attack. [MATT MCKEAN/TIMESDAILY]

When: 8:00 p.m., Saturday

Where: Washington Grizzly-Stadium, Missoula, Mont. 

TV/Radio: No TV/FM-97.1

The line: Montana by 23.5


Four-down territory

1. Moving forward: North Alabama kicked off its first season with a full FCS schedule at Braly Stadium with a 26-17 upset-win over Western Illinois. Senior running back Terence Humphrey carried the ball 12 times for 102 yards and scored on a 62-yard run in the closing minutes of the third quarter that put the Lions ahead for good. However, a big test is ahead with Montana and its passing attack. 

2. Defensive line rises to the occasion: North Alabama combined for four sacks and six tackles for loss, holding Western Illinois to 302 yards of total offense. A standout among the line of scrimmage was junior transfer defensive end Wallace Cowins, who had a sack and two tackles for loss. Cowins and the rest of line made it difficult for Western Illinois to control the line of scrimmage. 

3. Scouting Montana: The Grizzlies’ senior quarterback Dalton Sneed went 37 of 52 for 427 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-17 win over South Dakota. Defensively, Montana stopped South Dakota on the goal line twice and held the Coyotes, a pass-heavy team, to only 246 yards through the air. Defensive back Robby Hauck led the Grizzlies with 10 tackles and a pass breakup. Montana's defense was successful in getting big stops when it needed and the offense hummed along efficiently in the win. If the Grizzlies can replicate anything similar, it could be tough for the Lions to stop. 

4. Lions add a player: With the loss of Christon Taylor due to disciplinary reasons, UNA found itself short at linebacker. On Tuesday, Chris Willis and his staff got good news that transfer linebacker Amir Postley was cleared to play. Postley is 6-feet-2, 225 pounds. Originally from Philadelphia, he is transferring from Los Angeles Valley Community College. He is a junior and has two years of eligibility.


Key Matchup

Montana receivers vs. UNA defensive backs 

Sneed has plenty of weapons to throw to in Montana's offense, and offensive coordinator Timm Rosenbach isn't afraid to air it out often. Receivers Samuel Akem and Samori Toure had career highs in receiving yards against South Dakota with 158 and 142, respectively. North Alabama has experience in the secondary with senior defensive backs A.J. Bracey and D'Andre Hart, as well as junior K.J. Smith, but Saturday's game will likely be their biggest test to date. Hart led the team in tackles against Western Illinois with 11, Smith wasn't far behind with seven and Bracey had five. The trio will likely be called upon to lead the defense against the air-raid Grizzlies' offense. 


Player of the Week

Terence Humphrey, senior running back 

Humphrey led the Lions' running game with 102 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. His 62-yard run to the end zone in the final minutes of the third quarter was the last touchdown scored in the game and helped North Alabama preserve the victory. The senior from Huntsville was named a team captain on the Wednesday before the game. For the Lions to be successful against Montana, Humphrey's number could get called again to control the clock with the running game and keep Montana's offense off the field. 


By the numbers 

4: The number of times the Lions sacked Western Illinois quarterback Connor Sampson. Four players each had a sack, including Cowins, senior linebacker Jalen Dread, redshirt sophomore defensive end Brodric Martin and senior linebacker Will Evans. 

290: Number of yards passing for Lions' quarterback Christian Lopez last week. Lopez, who finished the 2018 season throwing for 2,184 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first season with the program, picked up where he left off against Western Illinois. His biggest play of the night was a 75-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Cortez Hall. 

2: Number of turnovers the Lions forced against Western Illinois. When Western Illinois was driving into the Lions' territory early in the fourth quarter, Bracey intercepted a pass from Sampson in the fourth quarter to keep the Lions ahead 19-17. Redshirt freshman linebacker Jakob Cummings forced a fumble that was recovered by sophomore defensive lineman Charlie Ryan in the third quarter. 

438: The total number of offensive yards produced by Sneed in Montana's win. He threw for 427 and rushed for 11 yards with a touchdown on the ground. His 37 completions was the fourth-most in Montana school history and the third-most by any FCS quarterback so far this season. 



Montana: 35, North Alabama 24

North Alabama will score points with Lopez at the helm and Humphrey in the backfield, but it will be tough to slow down Sneed and the Grizzlies' passing game. The game will likely be close in the first half, but due to the sheer volume of times Montana will pass the ball, the Grizzlies will likely have some cracks at the end zone in the second half. The Lions will make stops, but the Grizzlies just have too much firepower. 

— Michael Hebert


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