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Strong 2nd half lifts Montana to impressive road win at Portland State

By Spencer Martin

Editor’s note: This is a release from Montana University Athletics.

HILLSBORO, Ore. – All season Montana has been a second-half team, and that hasn’t been more apparent than it was on Saturday, when the Grizzlies rallied for a 38-23 victory at Portland State.

The Grizzlies trailed at the half, 17-14, with the Vikings scoring 10 consecutive points late in the second quarter and receiving the ball first to begin the third.

No problem for the Grizzlies.

Montana’s defense clamped down immediately to begin the second half, limiting the Vikings to just 12 yards before forcing a punt.

That opening drive set the tone for the entire second half. Montana out-scored Portland State, 24-6, and some of the additional numbers were even more dominant.

Portland State had seven second-half possessions, punting three times and turning the ball over on its final three drives. The Vikings’ first three drives of the second half totaled just 12 plays for 37 yards – before punting each time – while the final three resulted in a turnover on downs and a pair of interceptions.

On offense, Montana was equally as good. On their first drive of the third quarter, the Grizzlies needed just four plays and 86 seconds before finding the end zone. Montana scored again on its next drive and once again two drives later to open up a 35-23 lead just one play into the fourth quarter.

“Great team win for the Montana Grizzlies,” head coach Bobby Hauck said. “When things are going against us, we have a group that can fight their way out of it. They’re a mature and mentally tough group, and I think you saw that today.”

Cam Humphrey, who was making his second career start at quarterback, was impressive, completing 21 of 28 passes for 335 yards. He had four passing touchdowns, including three to wide receiver Samori Toure, who had a career day in his return to his hometown.

Toure finished with seven catches for 140 yards, including his three scores, which matched his season total entering the day.

“Samori had a big day,” Hauck said. “They dialed it up pretty good and our line protected long enough. Those two long ones were awesome. It was good to see Samori in his home country having a big game.”

Early in the second half, Humphrey found Toure in stride for a 42-yard touchdown to put Montana back on top. He scored again midway through the third quarter on a fade route to the back-right corner of the end zone, jumping above his defender’s reach.

One of the most impressive plays, though, came on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Humphrey hit Samuel Akem at midfield before the wide receiver sped past two defenders and into the end zone for a 76-yard score.

Within a period of 11 minutes, 29 seconds, Montana had scored three times and had opened up a two-score lead.

Akem joined Toure above the century mark, finishing with three catches for 104 yards. On the ground, running back Marcus Knight also reached triple digits with 23 carries for 106 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown run 5 minutes into the contest.

Three defenders had at least eight tackles, led by Robby Hauck’s 10 (seven solo). Jace Lewis had nine tackles, including three of the Grizzlies’ five sacks, while Oregon native Dante Olson had eight tackles, a half-sack, a pass breakup and a near-fumble recovery late in the game.

The Grizzlies forced Portland State into two fourth-quarter interceptions, the first coming from Dareon Nash and the second from defensive lineman Alex Gubner, who now has three interceptions on the season, despite his position.

The defense played better than the final score indicated, Hauck believes. While the Grizzlies allowed 23 points, 14 of them came on a short field after Montana turned the ball over twice in the opening half. Overall, the Grizzlies allowed Portland State just 321 yards of offense, nearly 140 yards below the Vikings’ season average of 458.8.

“Our defense was pretty lights out,” Hauck said. “I thought we pressured them all day and really set the tone by how we played on defense.”

Portland State entered the day 4-0 at home, and the Vikings might as well still consider themselves unbeaten considering the majority of the seats on Saturday were filled by maroon-colored fans.

The home-field advantage, despite playing on the road, was a huge boost for Montana.

“How about those Griz fans? Was that awesome, or what?” an ecstatic Hauck said. “I know it had to be a little hard for the guys across the field. They had to look at it all day. It was all maroon and it was noisy when they had the ball. Griz Nation was in full form today.”

The Grizzlies improved to 7-2 on the season and the team’s final three games are all in the Treasure State, as Montana hosts Idaho and No. 3 Weber State before closing the regular season at Montana State. In addition to Montana’s big win, the Grizzlies also benefitted on Saturday from losses by No. 5 Kennesaw State – to Monmouth, a team the Griz beat in September – and No. 6 Illinois State.

“I thought it was a good day all around,” Hauck said. “It’s a nice deal to get two wins in a row with your backup quarterback in the game. We’ve got a lot of confidence in Cam. He didn’t look nervous or like it was too big for him, even when we were down. I appreciate him for who he is, which is a good player and a good teammate.”

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