GREELEY, COLO. — It was a triumphant return for quarterback Cam Humphrey on Saturday afternoon in Greeley, Colorado.
After injuring his leg in the final seconds against Eastern Washington on Oct. 2, Humphrey missed Montana's next three football games before making a limited appearance off the bench against Southern Utah last week.
But on Saturday against Northern Colorado, Humphrey was back starting for the first time since that injury.
For him, it was the longest layoff due to injury he'd ever experienced, but he found ways to stay ready.
"Playing quarterback, it’s all about taking mental reps," Humphrey said. "When you’re not in there you’re seeing what they’re seeing and you’re making the decisions in your head so for the couple games I was out that’s all I was doing. I was playing just as much as they were I was just playing in my head and so it showed today."
The day started with a mixed bag on the opening drive as the Grizzlies were able to move the ball well, but a pair of sacks on Humphrey by UNC ended their opening drive.
But the Griz defense immediately forced a turnover as Justin Ford picked off his seventh pass of the season, and from there, Humphrey and the offense found a groove and put the first points on the board when he connected with tight end Cole Grossman for a 20-yard score.
"Going into that first drive after the first couple of plays, even though there were a few sacks, we felt like we were moving the ball really well," Humphrey said. "We felt like we were clicking on offense and then just having that turnover was just more momentum for us and we were able to capitalize on it and pay back the defense a little bit for getting us the ball back and it was really good."
Humphrey finished the game with 19 completions on 25 throws for 233 yards and three touchdowns. Humphrey connected with Samuel Akem for a 42-yard touchdown in the second quarter and a 17-yard score between the duo in the third quarter. Humphrey also ran the ball for 71 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown run where Humphrey dove across the goal line and took a big hit to put the Grizzlies up 14-0 in the first quarter.
"When I scramble in man coverage, we have our receivers trying to make plays for me," Humphrey said about that play. "(The defenders are) running after the receivers which leaves me open and I saw the window and there was no way I wasn’t going to score so I did everything I could."
"He ran the ball well," Griz coach Bobby Hauck added. "When you’re coming off injury you always hold your breath but he did a nice job. He’s, for the most part, a pretty durable guy and I thought he played a nice, well-rounded game, exactly what we need out of him. He threw it well too."
With the 35-0 win over Northern Colorado, Montana improved to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in Big Sky Conference play.
The defense forced a pair of turnovers and held the Bears to just 245 yards of total offense in as complete a game the Griz have played all season with both sides of the ball delivering pivotal performances as the season winds down. The Grizzlies have just two remaining games in the regular season with a road game at Northern Arizona next weekend followed by the Brawl of the Wild against Montana State on Nov. 20.
"We always say that games that are remembered are played in November and you got to get on a roll once you get into November as the season nears an end and into the playoffs so it’s important," safety Robby Hauck said. "Football is a physical game so guys get banged up and guys got to step up and make plays and I think we got that with everybody on our team"
"Coming in here we're in the final three games of the season and obviously you want to play your best football in the month of November and I hope that's what transpires for us," Bobby Hauck added.