A pocket of sunshine after three days of snow helped players, coaches and a handful of faithful fans enjoy the first scrimmage of the season for the University of Montana football team.

The Griz, who went a disappointing 5-6 last season, have installed a whole new offense, led by co-coordinators Kefense Henson and Scott Gragg. The majority of offensive plays started under center during the scrimmage, which head coach Mick Dennehy said he liked to see.

photo by Peter Christian

Jordan Johnson, who led the Grizzlies to the semi-finals of the FCS two years ago, did not suit up for the scrimmage. Delaney said Johnson overextended himself a bit during the first week of drills and was nursing a sore hamstring, but, Delaney emphasized, he should be fine by Monday.

Trent McKinney was 5 of 6 passing until he threw an interception. Shay Smithwick Hann led his offense well, and the 6'7" Brady Gustafson showed off a powerful arm, but overthrew a few receivers.

Very impressive performances were seen by the transfer from Marshall, running back Trevon Van, who wears number 8 and fellow running back Jordan Canada. On one play, Van headed left, saw the way was blocked, sprinted right and up the field for an impressive gain. Canada not only ran well, but caught several balls out of the backfield.

The defense featured crisp tackling and a few interceptions.

On special teams, punter Stephen Shaw displayed a powerful leg, forcing return man Ellis Henderson to backpedal several yards to catch the ball. Kicker Chris Lider got off to a slow start, missing his first three field goal attempts, but after a stern talking-to by coach Delaney, hit the last few through the goalposts.

After the scrimmage, Delaney said he was happy with the first effort, and that the team had some sunshine to play under. He gave a great deal of credit to quarterbacks McKinney, Smithwick-Hann and Gustafson, who have had to absorb a whole new offensive scheme.

The next scrimmage will be in Ronan on Friday, April 13, and there will be one more spring scrimmage in Missoula on Saturday, April 19 at 7 p.m. under the lights in Washington-Grizzly stadium.

Grizzly Head Coach Mick Delaney