MISSOULA — The Montana Grizzlies came into their Week 9 game against Eastern Washington with their defense giving up over 300 yards in the air and 125 on the ground.
With quarterback Dalton Sneed out with an ankle injury, backup quarterback Cam Humphrey filled in nicely. The redshirt junior went 20-of-29 passing with 176 yards and one touchdown. Running backs Marcus Knight and Nick Ostmo added 131 yards and 79 yards on the ground, respectively. Knight also added to his day with three touchdowns.
While the offense did its part, the defense had a tough test facing a fast, high-scoring offense lead by quarterback Eric Barriere. After giving up two big plays to the Eagles, a 36-yard pass touchdown and a 62-yard screen that set up another score, the defense locked in.
“Just being in this program, being able to stop the run. Their program does a great job of running the ball, so we know on defense we need to stop the run. Eastern has a very high-powered offense, so once we got the runs stopped then they started spreading it out a little bit. We knew we needed to get after the quarterback and cover downfield, which we did a good job of,” said defensive lineman Jesse Sims.
Against Barriere, who Montana head coach Bobby Hauck called the 'most athletic quarterback in the league,' the Griz defense gave up 22 completions on 41 attempts, while holding the Eagles to 3 points in the second half.
And the third-down defense was vital. The Griz let Eastern Washington convert only four of 15 times. The 17 points for the Eagles was their season scoring low in FCS play. The Griz out-played the Eagles 24-3 in the half, which has been the pattern for this team. In 2019, Montana has outscored its competitors by 115 points in the second half.
“I really like our football team's ability to do that. I think we are a second-half team, I think we are a fourth-quarter team, which is where we want to be playing our best on any given Saturday, and (on this Saturday) that's what it was," said Hauck.
With the 34-17 final on Saturday, that makes it 600 wins for the University of Montana.
With four games left in the regular season, Montana (6-2, 3-1 in Big Sky) will travel to Portland State (5-4, 3-2 in Big Sky) to take on the Vikings on Nov. 2nd at 3 p.m. MDT.