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Northridge Lands Big Game Trophy

Big Sky: Matadors bag wounded Montana Grizzlies for the first time in three tries, keep a share of conference lead, 21-7.

October 11, 1998|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — It was, one Cal State Northridge veteran admitted with a wide grin, the team's battle cry the last three years.

"That's all we've talked about," said Donnell Day, a senior cornerback. "We've got to beat Montana."

The Matadors won't have to dwell on it anymore after stopping Montana, 21-7, Saturday in a Big Sky Conference game in front of 5,237 at North Campus Stadium.

It was the Matadors' first victory over the Grizzlies in three meetings and left Northridge (4-1, 3-0 in the Big Sky) and Montana State (4-1, 2-0) as the only teams unbeaten in conference play. Montana State, which plays at Northridge on Oct. 24, dropped Weber State to 3-1 in the Big Sky with a 10-7 victory.

For the 23rd-ranked Matadors, beating No. 18-ranked Montana translates into respect and credibility, even if the Grizzlies played without Brian Ah Yat, their heralded quarterback.

Ah Yat, among the premier players in NCAA Division I-AA, was not in uniform because of an undisclosed back injury suffered last week in Montana's 20-17 victory over Portland State. He didn't practice all week and team officials wouldn't comment except to say he was probable against Northridge.

Sophomore Sean Davis replaced Ah Yat and passed for 172 yards and one touchdown, but he didn't take Northridge by surprise.

"We really worked on defending the scheme," Coach Ron Ponciano said. "Really, our game plan didn't change because we know they run a very nice package."

The Matadors countered with several defensive packages, blanketing the field with defensive backs. The seven points were the fewest Montana has scored in its past 78 games.

"We had four, five, six corners [on some plays]," said free safety Jeremy Golden, who tied linebacker Brennen Swanson with a team-high 11 tackles. "We knew anyone of our DBs had enough speed to cover any of their receivers."

Montana's Jeremy Watkins, who was averaging 81.8 yards receiving, had seven catches for 86 yards, but Northridge neutralized Raul Pacheco and Travis Walker, who averaged a combined 124.2 yards.

Pacheco had four receptions for 32 yards and Walker had three for 29 yards and one touchdown, a 13-yard pass from Davis that tied the score, 7-7, midway through the third quarter.

The Matadors fared much better with their passing attack.

Marcus Brady, Northridge's redshirt freshman, completed 21 of 31 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He connected with eight receivers, but none were more timely than Jimmy Greninger and Aaron Arnold.

Brady and Greninger teamed on a 51-yard pass play to put Northridge ahead, 7-0, with 12:28 to play in the third quarter. The touchdown came on a five-yard pass to the left flat that Greninger turned into a zig-zagging run to the end zone.

"It's all about the linemen getting down field," Greninger said. "We all wanted to score on that play."

Brady found Arnold on a 21-yard pass over the middle with 4:52 to play for a 13-7 lead, the same pattern the pair used minutes earlier on a 57-yard scoring play nullified by a holding penalty.

Melvin Blue's four-yard run with 1:56 to play and a two-point conversion pass from Brady to Ryan Schatz capped the scoring.

NORTHRIDGE BOX: Page 21

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