HILLSBORO, Ore. – Montana’s redemption tour continued Saturday in front of a partisan road crowd as the Griz blitzed Portland State, literally and figuratively on the way to another convincing win.
All season Montana has been a second-half team. That was the case again on Saturday as the Grizzlies rallied for a 38-23 victory at Portland State. The win avenges last season’s 22-20 PSU win in Missoula, a victory that came thanks to Cody Williams’ 52-yard field goal at the buzzer.
Montana has not avenged losses to UC Davis (49-21 UC Davis last year, 45-20 Griz this year) and Portland State. The Griz do not play Western Illinois or North Dakota but will have a chance for revenge from its fifth and final loss from last season, a 29-25 defeat at the hands of fierce rival Montana State in Missoula.
Saturday at Hillsboro High School stadium, the Grizzlies trailed at the half, 17-14, after Portland State scored 10 consecutive points late in the second quarter and receiving the ball first to begin the third.
The visitors, playing front of a largely supportive crowd despite being 550 miles from Missoula. The Griz put constant pressure on Portland State quarterback Davis Alexander, sacking him five times (including three by linebacker Jace Lewis) and keeping him under constant duress. And on offense, Montana took then expanded the lead with touchdowns on its first two possessions after the break.
That opening drive set the tone for the entire second half. Montana out-scored Portland State after halftime on th way to a 38-23 victory. The win moves No. 8 Montana to 4-1 in Big Sky Conference play, 7-2 overall.
“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.”
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 Samori Toure’s 42-yard touchdown catch, his second of three touchdowns on the day on an afternoon that saw the Portland native total seven catches for 140 yards.
Toure caught a six-yard touchdown on a pretty back-shoulder fade from Cam Humphrey to put UM up 28-17 midway through the third quarter. Humphrey’s fourth touchdown pass came on a 76-yard catch and run by Sammy Akem, a junior like Toure who also went over 100 yards receiving on Saturday.
“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.”
Humphrey, who was making his second career start at quarterback with senior Dalton Sneed still out with an ankle injury, impressed again. The former Boise State and Saddleback College transfer completed 21 of 28 passes for 335 yards.
Within a period of 11 minutes, 29 seconds, Montana had scored three times
Three defenders had at least eight tackles, led by Robby Hauck’s 10 (seven solo). 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. He also planted a bone-crushing hit on Alexander 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 to lead the Griz despite his 6-foot-3, 285-pound frame.
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 have felt like the road team Saturday with 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?” 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.”