MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Dalton Sneed passed for a touchdown and ran for another, Marcus Knight added three rushing TDs, and Montana pulled away in the second half for a 61-17 win over North Alabama on Saturday night.
Sneed completed 24 of 38 passes for 269 yards, including a 9-yard scoring strike to Matt Rensvold, and Knight finished with 19 carries for 89 yards.
The Grizzlies (2-0) trailed 17-16 at intermission as special teams miscues and a fumble by Sneed deep in North Alabama territory sparked the Lions (1-1). But then Sneed led Montana on three scoring drives before Griz return man Jerry Louis-McGee tore off a 74-yard punt return to make it 40-17 with 2:51 left in the third quarter.
For a time Sneed was outplayed by his UNA counterpart, Christian Lopez, who like Sneed began his college career at UNLV. Lopez threw for 280 yards in the first half, including a 75-yard catch and run by Cortez Hall on a screen.
When Montana tried a fake field goal late in the first half and had it stuffed, Lopez quickly found Jakobi Byrd for 64 yards and a 17-16 lead late in the second quarter.
Montana quickly took command, sandwiching scoring runs of 1 and 24 yards by Knight around Brandon Purdy's 47-yard field goal.
Then came Louie-McGee's punt return that dazzled the crowd of 24,033 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Backup quarterback Cam Humphrey added a 12-yard scoring pass to Nick Ostmo in the fourth quarter for the Griz, who also got a 3-yard scoring run from Drew Turner.
NORTH ALABAMA: The Lions, in their second year transitioning into the Football Championship Subdivision, couldn't maintain the momentum they built in the first half. Lopez had two passes caught in the third quarter, both by the host Grizzlies.
MONTANA: Each phase of the game kicked into high gear for the Grizzlies after intermission, with Jerry Louie-McGee's 74-yard punt return capping a 24-0 burst in the third quarter, putting Montana up 40-17.
NORTH ALABAMA: The Lions return home to face Alabama A&M Saturday.
MONTANA: The Grizzlies move up a level, traveling to play Pac-12 power Oregon at Autzen Stadium.