MISSOULA — Six different Grizzlies found the end zone and the defense flexed its muscle again as Montana defeated Eastern Washington 57-41 in the second round of the FCS playoffs at Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Friday night.
Eastern Washington's Eric Barriere threw for 530 yards and five touchdowns, but Montana's physicality on defense had the star quarterback hobbling for much of the second half. Barriere fumbled once and threw and interception.
UM's Patrick O'Connell and Robby Hauck each forced a fumble, while linebacker Marcus Welnel collected two sacks. Cornerback Justin Ford added a pick-six, giving him nine interceptions on the year, the most in the FCS.
Montana placekicker Kevin Macias connected on three field goals to stretch his count of consecutive makes to 17.
UM's Sammy Akem caught two touchdown passes, his 28th and 29th as a Griz, moving him into a tie with NFL Pro Bowler Marc Mariani for the Montana program record.
TURNING POINT: Montana's second-quarter defensive stand that resulted in a blocked punt by Ryan Tirrell. The sequence included back-to-back big hits (one of which was initially called targeting, but called back after review). After the blocked punt and recovery by Levi Janacaro, the Griz scored shortly afterward, and Eastern's offense never truly recovered. The Eagle receivers dropped numerous passes and Barriere was under duress for the rest of the game.
STAT OF THE GAME: Points. As expected, EWU's offense was prolific, but Montana led in the only stat the matters.
GAME BALLS: Humphrey, Akem, Junior Bergen, and the Montana defense. Humphrey took care of the ball and make the big throws when he needed to. Akem made history with his pair of touchdowns. Bergen had critical punt returns early in the game that gave the Griz optimal field position, and he scored a touchdown. The Montana defense did what it has all season, dominate.
WHAT'S NEXT: Montana, the No. 6 overall seed in the FCS playoffs, improves to (10-2) on the season and will await the winner of No. 3 seed James Madison (10-1) vs. Southeastern Louisiana (9-3).