The Glacier football team started its game against Great Falls C.M. Russell on fire, but fizzled out in the final three quarters, losing its first game of the season 28-23 on Friday night at Legends Stadium.
The Wolfpack (6-1) scored touchdowns on its first two drives, connecting on a 60-yard pass from Tadan Gilman to Andrew Durado then, following a three-and-out by the defense, a 57-yard pass from Gilman to Patrick O’Connell on the next play, taking a 13-0 lead in just 1 minute, 10 seconds of game time.
It seemed to be that type of night as the heavily-favored Wolfpack stonewalled CMR on its next three plays from scrimmage. But, a defensive pass interference gave the Rustlers new life and the ball in Glacier territory. On the next play, they connected on a misdirection pass to the backside of the defense and tight end James Olsen rumbled 45 yards for a touchdown.
Glacier threw an interception on the next drive and after a fourth-down conversion netted CMR a first down from the Glacier 2-yard line, the Rustlers punched in a short touchdown for a 14-13 lead less than four minutes after the Wolfpack’s torrid start.
“We got out of the gates right away early, and then it looked like we felt, ‘Oh, this is over already,’ and wanted to go sit in the student section,” Glacier coach Grady Bennett said.
“We just kind of, again, went into that lull. We’ve had those lulls where instead of just playing consistently all game, we’ve talked about it a lot, playing four quarters, playing in three phases. That was my whole pregame talk to play in four quarters, consistent. I don’t know, we just lose focus a little bit and go on the ups and downs.
“We can’t keep playing with fire. Eventually, you’re going to get burned. We’ve played with big time fire the last three weeks. Sure enough.”
That offensive firepower was never able to get going again as Glacier struggled with a wet, muddy field and an ineffective passing game. The Wolfpack was just 3 for 9 passing in the rest of the half, hitting a pair of screens and a 44-yard bomb that set up a 31-yard field goal from Cameron Anderson that briefly gave Glacier a 16-14 lead with less than two minutes in the half.
On the next drive, CMR connected on a 47-yard go route up the left sideline and three plays later, again on third down, connected for a 9-yard touchdown to Cade Mares with 36 seconds left in the half to take a 22-16 lead into the break.
After a slow start to the third quarter, Glacier got some juice from its defense, with junior Lance Dannic intercepting a pass at midfield to give the Wolfpack a boost of energy after a pair of drives stalled to start the half.
Glacier slowly drove inside the CMR 10-yard line, converting a pair of third-down conversions along the way, and Gilman ran a draw up the gut for a 5-yard touchdown to give the Wolfpack the lead 23-22 with 3:44 left in the third quarter.
The Rustlers answer again didn’t take long, CMR driving 69 yards in three plays to score on another pass to Olsen on the backside of the defense, stretching the score to 28-23.
An attempt to extend the lead to seven points was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage.
“That’s been an issue for us,” Bennett said.
“We’ll play great defense and win first down a lot. That’s usually a key. But, boy, we get to third-and-long and we’ve struggled sometimes. Not only to get off the field, but that conversion. It’s third-and-10 and they’ll get 11. Third-and-8 they’ll get 8 1/2. Just getting off the field and forcing those punts.
“I thought the defense played pretty well. Just offensively, we really spun our wheels. We got those two quick touchdowns and then we kind of relaxed, like, ‘We got this.’”
Glacier’s offense was still struggling to gain traction, throwing an interception on the next drive. After a three-and-out, Glacier drove deep into the CMR end, but failed to convert on fourth-and-1 from the 29-
yard line and turned over its best chance at retaking the lead.
The Wolfpack threw another interception on the next drive and on its last chance was backed up to its own 4-yard line with 39.2 seconds to play. With its first pass out of bounds, Glacier had a little more than 35 seconds to work with on second down when Gilman tried to improvise a miracle finish, scrambling for more than 30 seconds and ending up with a modest gain, only for a holding call to wipe out the positive yardage and leave the Wolfpack with 95 yards to go and 3.8 seconds to complete a Hail Mary. The next pass was lofted high but short, falling incomplete to end Glacier’s perfect season.
“That’s where it’s tough with Tadan, he’s such a great athlete and that’s his tendency to want to do it all himself,” Bennett said. “He’s been pretty good. A play like that at the end is classic him trying to win the game by himself, somehow, miraculously. You can’t do that. But you can’t fault him for the effort. My goodness, he must have run 100 yards on that last play. Those are things you have to teach.”
Gilman was 18 for 38 for 292 yards passing with two touchdowns and three interceptions, with 36 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Drew Turner had 69 yards rushing on 24 carries. Durado led the Wolfpack with 121 receiving yards on four catches. Lane Jensen was 16 for 36 for CMR with 242 yards passing with three touchdowns and an interception. He was also the team’s leading rusher with 21 yards on the ground.
The Rustlers finished with only 17 rushing yards as the Wolfpack defense hald the other three backs to minus-4 yards. Olsen had 83 yards receiving on four catches.
Glacier has a chance to get back on the winning track next weekend against Butte (1-6). The Wolfpack will play its final three games at Legends Stadium, with its only road contest coming against Flathead in two weeks.
“The main thing is good teams react in the right way,” Bennett said.
“Everybody is accountable. We’re still in great position. It’s one loss. We just have to react in the right way. The goal is never to be undefeated. It’s nice, but that’s never the goal. The goal is to react the right way and come back next week much better than we were tonight.”
CM Russell 14 8 6 0 — 28
Glacier 13 3 7 0 — 23
GLA—Andrew Durado 60 pass from Tadan Gilman (run failed), 7:04
GLA—Patrick O’Connell 57 pass from Gilman (Cameron Anderson kick), 5:54
CMR—James Olsen 46 pass from Lane Jensen (Logan Caffee kick), 4:52
CMR—Jensen 2 run (Caffee kick), 2:01
GLA—Anderson 32 field goal, 1:43
CMR—Cade Mares 10 pass from Jensen (Olsen pass from Jensen), 0:36
GLA—Gilman 5 run (Anderson kick), 3:44
CMR—Olsen 19 pass from Jensen (run failed), 2:41
First Downs 28 23
Rushes/Yards 25-17 36-112
Passing Yards 242 292
Att-Comp-Int 38-16-1 38-18-3
Total Plays-Yards 63-259 74-404
Punt Returns-Yards 3-16 4-40
Kick Returns-Yards 4-69 4-53
Int. Returns-Yards 3-58 1-0
Punts-Avg. 9-31.9 4-34.3
Fumbled-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-45 8-78
Possession Time 23:12 31:22
RUSHING—CMR, Lane Jensen 10-21, Cade Mares 2-0, Garrison Rothwell 12-(-2), Jake Horner 1-(-2). Glacier, Drew Turner 24-69, Tadan Gilman 10-36, Jackson Pepe 2-7.
PASSING—CMR, Lane Jensen 16-36-1-242, Jake Horner 1-0-0-0. Glacier, Tadan Gilman 18-38-3-292.
RECEIVING—CMR, James Olsen 4-83, Jake Wilkins 3-65, Kyle Byrne 3-25, Jake Horner 3-23. Glacier, Andrew Durado 4-121, Jackson Pepe 5-55, Scout Willcut 4-25, Drew Turner 3-17.
Glacier receiver Andrew Durado hauls in a pass from Tadan Gilman and runs for a 60-yard touchdown during the first quarter against Great Falls C.M. Russell at Legends Stadium on Friday. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)