Montana Clubs Northern Iowa 48-10

Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson (10) scrambles for a touchdown in the second quarter of an NCAA college football quarterfinal playoff game against Northern Iowa in Missoula, Mont., on Friday, Dec. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Albans)

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By James Steward

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Jordan Johnson put on a show Friday night in leading Montana to a 48-10 victory over Northern Iowa in the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals. And his coach wasn't the least bit surprised.

"Jordy did exactly what I envisioned him doing when he came to Montana," said coach Robin Pflugrad. "He can make plays in so many ways. It's like having a running back, wide receiver and quarterback all in one player. I credit him for our offensive success."

Johnson threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as Montana advanced to next weekend's semifinals.

Fourth-seeded Montana (11-2) will square off against the winner of Saturday's game between Montana State and Sam Houston State.

"(Johnson's) maturity and development have been off the charts the last five or six games," Pflugrad said.

Johnson completed 13 of 20 passes for 196 yards and repeatedly eluded the Panthers defense in rushing for 86 yards on 10 carries. The sophomore quarterback led the Grizzlies to five touchdowns in five trips into the Northern Iowa red zone.

"We put a huge emphasis on when we get into the red zone, we need to score touchdowns," Johnson said. "I'm very happy we executed in the red zone."

Fifth-seeded Northern Iowa (10-3) got on the board first when Tirrell Rennie connected with Jarred Herring on a 27-yard touchdown pass.

But it was all Grizzlies the rest of the way..

Touchdown runs by Jordan Canada, Johnson and Peter Nguyen and a 5-yard pass from Johnson to Kavario Middleton with 30 seconds left in the half sent Montana to the locker room with a 28-10 lead.

It was more of the same in the second half. Johnson connected with Sam Gratton on scoring tosses of 8 and 25 yards, and Donny Lisowski returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown to round out the scoring.

"Their quarterback is what broke it open," said Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley. "He created big plays for his football team. His ability to move and run the ball was the difference."

The Grizzlies outgained the Panthers 463 to 257 yards in total offense. Montana's defense also stepped up, racking up five sacks and three interceptions and limiting Rennie to 93 yards passing.

Gratton hauled in four passes for 90 yards to pace Montana's aerial attack.

Northern Iowa's defense was led by linebacker L.J. Fort with a game-high 17 tackles.
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