N Arizona 22

(4-5, 3-3 Big Sky)

Montana 34

(7-2, 4-1 Big Sky)

2:05 PM ET, November 6, 2004

Washington Grizzly, Missoula, MT

1 2 3 4 T
NAU 0 0 3 1922
MONT 10 14 10 034

Top Performers

Passing: J. Murrietta (NAU) - 338 YDS, 2 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: L. Hilliard (MONT) - 24 CAR, 132 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: K. Mahr (NAU) - 5 REC, 116 YDS, 1 TD

Montana 34, Northern Arizona 22

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) -- Montana took advantage of Northern Arizona turnovers and penalties to build a 34-0 lead midway through the third quarter Saturday and hold on for a 34-22 victory.

"I thought we hit on all cylinders," said UM coach Bobby Hauck. "We got out of the gate fast, which is what we talked about."

No. 10 Montana (7-2, 4-1 Big Sky) was coming off a tough three-point loss to Portland State, but Northern Arizona (4-5, 3-3) was coming off an even tougher 60-14 home loss to Montana State, in which they trailed 53-0 at halftime.

"Coach Hauck and the staff really emphasized all week -- get off to a quick start," said quarterback Craig Ochs, who passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns. "We took the ball at the beginning of the game for the first time all year. We didn't score, but we moved the ball."

Lex Hilliard rushed for a career high 132 yards and a touchdown to help keep Montana in the hunt for the Big Sky title with two games remaining. Hilliard also had two catches for 42 yards.

Montana freshman Dan Carpenter kicked two field goals, four extra points and ran in a 14-yard touchdown on a fake field goal with 6:38 left in the half to put Montana up 17-0. Tyson Johnson pitched the ball back to Carpenter, who ran around the right side and into the end zone.

The drive included a career-long 47-yard run by Hilliard.

"In terms of Lex, he made a lot of those plays happen just by breaking tackles," Ochs said.

Ja'Ton Simpson scored his first touchdown on his first reception this year -- a 1-yard catch with five seconds left in the half -- to give UM a 24-0 lead.

"It was a great throw," Simpson said. "It's my first touchdown and it just came like second nature."

Montana's Nick Vella recovered Jason Murrietta fumbles on the last play of the first half and the first play of the second half.

"We just wanted to start out fast the second half," Vella said. "I just saw the quarterback get hit. I saw the ball loose and just jumped on it."

Two plays later, Hilliard scored on a 2-yard run.

NAU was forced to punt on its next possession, and Montana's next drive ended with a 27-yard field goal by Carpenter to give Montana a 34-0 lead.

Murrietta completed 25-of-24 passes for a season-high 338 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns to lead NAU, which also got 104 yards rushing and a touchdown from Roger Robinson. NAU had more than half of its 442 yards in total offense in the fourth quarter when Murrietta passed for 158 yards.

"I'd like a shutout," said Hauck, but he didn't second-guess his decision to put in the backup players. "We had some young guys in. They got some valuable experience."

Montana scored first on a 4-yard pass from Ochs to Jon Talmage with 5:59 left in the first quarter.

Robinson fumbled on NAU's next drive and Montana took a 10-0 lead on a 47-yared field goal by Carpenter. In the second quarter, Jimmy Wilson got his first career interception, picking off Murrietta, which led to Carpenter's TD run.

"That first half was us basically shooting ourselves in the foot," Robinson said.

NAU got its first score on a 44-yard field goal by Paul Ernster with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.

Montana put in backup quarterback Jeff Disney for two series, but the Griz couldn't move the ball and NAU scored on its next two possessions -- Robinson's 1-yard flip over the pile into the end zone with 11:55 remaining and Vince Henman's 4-yard TD catch with 8:25 to play.

Henman, a senior from Laurel, said: "It's always been my dream to score back home. I thank (coach) for that one."

Ochs went back in for Montana.

"Fortunately, we were able to get that long drive to take about six minutes off the clock," Ochs said. "It was pretty easy for me, I just handed it off to" Hilliard. Hilliard rushed for 22 yards and had one fourth-down conversion during the drive.

NAU scored one more time, on Murrietta's 34-yard TD pass to Kory Mahr with 52 seconds left.

"First of all, we got outplayed today," said NAU coach Jerome Souers, a former UM assistant who has lost to Montana seven times. "You look at some of the mistakes, some are because of the execution of our opponents and some were self-inflicted."