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Rapid Reaction: No. 6 Eastern Washington 34, No. 4 Montana 28

Montana vs. Eastern Washington
Posted at 12:31 AM, Oct 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-03 06:37:38-04

CHENEY, Wash. — With an opportunity to snap a five-game losing streak since No. 6 Eastern Washington converted their field into the red-turfed 'Inferno', the No. 4 Montana Grizzlies faltered down the stretch to lose, 34-28.

The Eagles opened the game romping 85 yards on just eight plays to score on an 8-yard pass from Eric Barriere to Andrew Boston to put EWU up, 7-0 in less than two minutes. Both teams stalled, punting twice apiece, before the Griz found some momentum midway through the first and handed it off to Xavier Harris for a 3-yard score to knot the game up at 7-7.

The Griz defense stood pat in the second and third quarters holding the Eagles to just a field goal, while scoring once a quarter on Cam Humphrey passes to Samuel Akem (four yards) and Joey Elwell (15 yards) in the second and third quarters, respectively, to hold a 21-10 lead in the third quarter. The Eagles were able to turn the tides before heading into the fourth by blocking a Griz field goal attempt and put themselves in great position to score as the game waned into its final frame. The Eagles were able to regain the lead for the first time since the end of the first quarter after Barriere found Boston yet again for a passing touchdown to trim the lead, and then Micah Smith took the ball in from two yards out to take a 24-21 lead early in the fourth after EWU went 1-2 on two-point conversions.

With an opportunity to regain the lead deep in EWU territory, Humphrey's pass to Akem in the end zone was intercepted and turned into five play, 80-yard touchdown drive for the Eagles, capped off by a 1-yard Dennis Merrit rush to take a 31-21 lead with under 10 minutes to play. Needing a spark, Malik Flowers continued his reign of impressive special teams play and returned Jackson Cleaver's kickoff 99 yards to cut the Eagles lead to 31-28. With 7:40 left in the fourth quarter, the Griz received the ball on a punt and hopes of taking a late lead were squashed when Humphrey threw his second interception of the night, this time by Marlon Jones Jr.

The Eagles rushing attack was able to eat five minutes of game clock before the Griz held them to a field goal. Down six points and with just over a minute to play, the Griz made their way into EWU territory before Humphrey was injured and helped off the field. Kris Brown entered for Montana and was able to get the Griz into the EWU redzone, but his pass to the endzone after being flushed from the pocket was broken up, ending the game with an EWU victory, 34-28.

TURNING POINT: Eastern Washington's blocked FG. Caleb Davis' field goal block in near the end of the third quarter set the Eagles up with great field position and momentum to score to open the fourth quarter and cut the Griz lead. From there, the Eagles were on the attack scoring on their next two drives to take a lead they would not give up.

STAT OF THE GAME: 538 yards of total offense for the Eagles. Though they didn't have a ton to show for their offensive prowess through the first three quarters, the Eagles made up for it in the fourth with 24 points.

GAME BALLS: Eric Barriere, who threw for 422 yards on 26 completions with two touchdowns. Despite having only 11 yards on the ground in the first half, the Eagles run game was able to patiently bide their time to the tune of 116 yards and two rushing touchdowns.

WHAT'S NEXT: Montana (3-1) will return home to face Dixie State in a non-conference game on Oct. 9.