Game Recap

Montana routs Western Illinois 42-7 in return to Washington-Grizzly Stadium


The beer garden was new. The packed student section, even in the third quarter, was certainly new. Heck, even having fans in the stands at all felt a little novel.

But the on-field dominance is starting to feel just a little bit routine for the Montana Grizzlies.

In front of a raucous crowd for the first non-exhibition game at Washington-Grizzly Stadium since 2019, Montana stifled Western Illinois in a 42-7 win on Saturday.

Montana junior wide receiver Malik Flowers/ Blake Hempstead, Skyline Sports

Griz senior Cam Humphrey threw for five touchdowns, two to junior Malik Flowers, whose second-half scoring grabs of 39 and 28 yards were the first two of his career, and the Montana defense held the Leathernecks to 151 yards.

“The crowd was awesome,” Griz head coach Bobby Hauck said. “It was so cool to have them back. I told these guys this week, just wait and see. It’s going to be different than what you’re accustomed to. Our students were awesome. Everybody was into it and everybody was pulling together. Our team feeds off it.”

The win was Hauck’s 100th as head coach at Montana.

With the Griz coming off a 13-7 upset of Washington the week before, excitement around the program was higher than it’s been in close to a decade.

The last time the Griz had a win on the same level of their Washington triumph, in 2015 against North Dakota State, they lost the next week to Cal Poly.

This time, there was no letdown.

Montana linebackers Marcus Welnel and Patrick O’Connell/ by Blake Hempstead

The 25,238 fans that filled Washington-Grizzly Stadium to the brim with maroon and noise got plenty of flashbulb moments, but Montana’s dominance was better captured in vignettes of understated celebration: senior Omar Hicks Onu flexing alone on his side of the field after the opposite corner junior Justin Ford planted a WIU receiver on a screen pass for a loss; senior captain offensive lineman Dylan Cook solemnly pointing downfield after yet another first-down run.

“(After the Washington game), the guys were locked-in, laser-focused on the next opponent,” said junior linebacker Patrick O’Connell, who had nine tackles, three tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. “Not worried about what happened last week, but just focusing in on Western Illinois and what we had to do to get the win.”

Western Illinois, which hung tough with defending MAC champion Ball State in its Week 1 game, closed to 14-7 late in the second quarter on Michael Lawson’s 75-yard interception return, one of two picks for Lawson on the day.

That was the only score for the Leathernecks, who finished with just nine first downs, and Humphrey came back with a two-minute drill, capping it by dodging out of pressure, rolling right and hitting junior Mitch Roberts for an 18-yard score with one second left in the half.

Humphrey finished 20 of 27 for 252 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. His other scoring tosses went 12 yards to senior Sammy Akem in the first half and 1 yard TD to freshman tight end Erik Barker in the third quarter, the first catch and score of the freshman tight end’s career.

Flowers, who’s scored five kick-return touchdowns in his Montana career, had by far his biggest day as a receiver with three catches for 100 yards and the two scores.

Montana senior quarterback Cam Humphrey/ by Blake Hempstead

All three of Humphrey’s TDs in the second half (Barker’s, and the two to Flowers) came on play-action after the Montana running game softened up WIU’s defense. Isiah Childs ran for 76 yards on 14 carries, including a 7-yard first-quarter touchdown that was his first as a Grizzly, and true freshman Junior Bergen had 73 yards on 13 carries.

“It’s something we saw early in the week on film, and we were looking to expose that whenever we could,” Humphrey said about WIU’s weakness on play-action. “Coach (Timm) Rosenbach and coach (Brent) Pease put together a great game plan. It was just our job to go execute it.”

Montana’s defense, meanwhile, had five sacks and eight tackles for loss, and hasn’t given up any points since Washington’s first drive in the season opener.

Robby Hauck, Michael Matthews and Eli Alford joined O’Connell with multiple tackles for loss, and linebacker Marcus Welnel had an interception and a fumble recovery.

“I was really impressed. They have great players, they run a great scheme,” Western Illinois coach Jared Elliott said. “They didn’t do anything different, they just do it really well. There’s no question that’s one of the better defensive units in the country. … They make you communicate at a very high level, and their kids play very fast, very hard, very confident.”

Elliott also said that the Grizzlies, ranked No. 4 in last week’s STATS FCS poll, “should definitely be in the discussion” for the No. 1 team in the country.

That will certainly be a topic around Missoula this week. The Griz are undefeated. The defense hasn’t given up any points in nearly two full games. But most importantly, the buzz is back at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

“I think I just said that in the locker room,” Hauck said. “We told them, you did it. They’re back, everybody’s in, everybody’s on board, everybody’s having fun.”

The Griz have a bye next week before hosting Cal Poly on Sept. 25 for Homecoming.

About Andrew Houghton

Andrew Houghton grew up in Washington, DC. He graduated from the University of Montana journalism school in December 2015 and spent time working on the sports desk at the Daily Tribune News in Cartersville, Georgia, before moving back to Missoula and becoming a part of Skyline Sports in early 2018.

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