MISSOULA — The Little Brown Stein is headed back to Moscow, Idaho, for the first time in 23 years.
Proving it is a team to be reckoned with under first-year coach Jason Eck, Idaho toppled No. 3 Montana 30-23 on Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. With the win, the Vandals took possession of the rivalry Stein it last won in 1999.
The Vandals dominated time of possession and intercepted Montana quarterback Lucas Johnson twice in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
A 1-yard TD run by Roshaun Johnson and a subsequent two-point conversion run by QB Gevani McCoy gave Idaho a 30-16 lead with 2:14 remaining.
Johnson hit Mitch Roberts with a 6-yard TD pass to pull the Griz within seven with 32 seconds left, but Idaho recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
Idaho improved to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the Big Sky. Montana is now 5-1 and 2-1 in the league.
Turning point: Johnson, who injured his right knee in the second half but returned, threw two consecutive interceptions in the fourth quarter, the last of which was picked off by Idaho’s Tommy McCormick, who returned it 29 yards to the 2-yard line with 4:09 left.
That led to the 1-yard touchdown run by Johnson with 2:14 on the clock. McCoy strolled into the end zone on a two-point run, giving the Vandals what was an insurmountable 30-16 lead.
Stat of the game: The Vandals dominated time of possession, keeping the ball for a whopping 42:08. That left the Grizzlies with just 17:52 of possession time, which proved crucial in the outcome.
Grizzly game balls: WR Junior Bergen (offense). Bergen made an acrobatic one-handed snag in the back of the end zone for a 19-yard TD catch in the first quarter and a 7-0 UM lead. Bergen finished with 54 receiving yards on a pair of catches.
LB Marcus Welnel (defense). For a defense that was on the field all day, the bearer of the Grizzlies’ No. 37 legacy jersey was all over the field. Welnel ended the game with 16 tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack.
Malik Flowers (special teams). With a 44-yard return, Flowers broke the school record for career kickoff return yards. Flowers surpassed the previous record of 2,129 held by Rob Schulte (2005-08).
What’s next: It won’t get any easier for the Grizzlies next week as they travel to play reigning Big Sky Conference champion Sacramento State. Kickoff time is 9 p.m. Mountain and will be broadcast on ESPN2. The Hornets came into this week undefeated and ranked No. 5 in the country.