1. Mistakes, penalties hurt Lions: North Alabama was efficient and moved the ball well in the first half on its way to taking a 17-16 halftime lead. However, the Lions turned the ball over with a crucial interception from quarterback Christian Lopez at the goal line on the opening drive of the game. Those mistakes carried over to the second half, as Lopez threw consecutive interceptions in the first two drives after halftime. UNA finished with nine penalties for 75 yards.
2. Grizzlies wake up in second half: In the first half, UNA forced Montana into some mistakes and outgained the Grizzlies, especially through the air, with 280 yards for the Lions to Montana’s 130. But the Grizzlies came out much stronger after the break, scoring 45 unanswered points and kept the Lions out of the end zone. Montana finished with 530 total yards.
3. Special teams battle goes to Montana: The Grizzlies were effective in just about every phase of special teams. Adam Wilson averaged just over 50 yards on each punt and Brandon Purdy hit a 36-yard field goal and one from 47 yards. The biggest game changer was Jerry Louie-McGee, who returned five punts for 150 yards, including one he took to the end zone from 74 yards out.
Pass offense: C: Lopez was effective with the ball in the first half, throwing two touchdowns. But a crucial interception at the goal line on the opening drive kept the Lions for making an opening statement. The second half was tough for the UNA offense, resulting in two consecutive interceptions. Lopez finished the game going 14-for-33 for 320 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Run offense: D: Terence Humphrey, Jr. started the game with a few decent runs, but the running game as a whole never really got going. In the second half, the Grizzlies defense tightened up and kept the Lions’ offensive production to a minimum. Humphrey, Jr. led the Lions with seven rushes for 28 yards.
Pass defense: C: The UNA defensive backs were successful in limiting Dalton Sneed and the Grizzlies’ passing game in the first half, but when Sneed found his rhythm, the secondary struggled.The Grizzlies finished with 296 yards through the air with touchdowns.
Run defense: D: UNA didn’t give up a ton of yards on the ground in the first half, but in the second, Montana took advantage in a big way. Running back Marcus Knight scored three touchdowns and Sneed was able to scramble for big plays, finishing with 27 rushing yards and touchdown.
Special teams: C: Joe Gurley averaged 48 yards on punts and hit a 21-yard field goal, but the Lions’ coverage team struggled, allowing wide receiver Jerry Louie-McGee to gain 150 yards on punt returns, including one that went 74 yards for a touchdown.
Coaching: C: Between the penalties and turnovers, it was tough sledding for the Lions throughout the game. The UNA staff put together a good plan to get a lead at halftime, but the second half performance wasn’t enough.
Overall: D: If the grade was only for the first half, the Lions would probably get an A, but Montana dominated in all phases in the third and fourth quarters and took control of the game.