MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Coming off a loss in which they lost their standout quarterback, the Montana Grizzlies turned to sophomore running back Marcus Knight Saturday and he delivered.
Knight ran for 131 yards and three touchdowns to help Montana rally past Eastern Washington 34-17 Saturday.
Knight's touchdown runs of 4, 45 and 9 yards backed junior Cam Humphrey, who was making his first start at quarterback for injured senior Dalton Sneed. Sneed came out of a 49-22 loss at Sacramento State with an injured ankle.
Humphrey threw for a touchdown as the Grizzlies, ranked 11th in the FCS Coach's Poll, improved to 6-2, 3-1 in the Big Sky Conference.
Eastern Washington (3-5, 2-2) started fast and led 14-3 midway through the second quarter after Andrew Boston's 30-yard touchdown reception and a 5-yard scoring run by Tamarick Pierce. Montana seized some momentum by driving 65 yards to Knight's first touchdown, cutting the gap to 14-10 as snow began to fly late in the first half.
The Grizzlies built on that after halftime and finished with 255 rushing yards, claiming just their second win over Eastern in their last eight meetings.
"Certainly, to beat a team that played in the (FCS) national championship game last year is big for us," Montana coach Bobby Hauck said. "Our backs were running hard. Nick (Ostmo, who had 79 yards) ran hard, (Marcus) ran hard. We had a lot of yards after contact. We were breaking tackles. With the young guys we have going right now, I think the future is bright."
After a 35-yard field goal by Seth Harrison put Eastern up 17-10 at 8:56 of the third quarter, Knight then tore off his long run, on a third-and-1 at the 7:18 mark. A Brandon Purdy field goal from 46 yards put the Grizzlies ahead for good, 20-17, before the quarter ended.
"That's a good outfit," Eastern Washington coach Aaron Best said. "We played a good outfit in a tough environment, and those guys were coming off a loss. We played very well the first half. These guys played their butts off the first half, played their butts off the second half and didn't score enough points."
After Knight's final touchdown, Eastern muffed a fair catch on the ensuing kickoff and Malik Flowers recovered for Montana at the Eagles' 23. That set up a 6-yard scoring pass from Humphrey to Samuel Akem. Montana's second touchdown in two minutes made it 34-17 with 12:02 left in the game.
Humphrey was 20 of 29 passing for 176 yards, mostly throwing underneath. He also ran for 35 yards. Knight, who has 13 touchdowns this season, added 65 receiving yards.
"I knew the team was going to rally around me," said Humphrey, who came to Montana via Boise State and then junior college. "The O-line played a hell of a game and I have a pretty good running back behind me. I have a pretty good role model ahead of me — Dalton's a hell of a player."
Eastern quarterback Eric Barriere was 22 of 41 for 264 yards, including a 62-yard pass to Talolo Limu-Jones that set up Pierce's touchdown.
"He had a few drops on balls that were thrown pretty well," Best noted. "Guys make mistakes. They are human. Hopefully we minimize those."
Boston had 86 yards on five catches for Eastern. Akem was Montana's top receiver with seven catches for 49 yards.
EASTERN WASHINGTON: The Eagles used big plays to take an early 14-3 lead and then stalled in the second half. A special teams miscue led to a quick touchdown that put them down 34-17 early in the second half.
MONTANA: A run game that picked up as the game wore on carried the Grizzlies, who were without senior quarterback Dalton Sneed. The hosts ran for 255 yards to hold off the Eagles.
"I got the ball and Cam (Humphrey) just yelled, 'Get it!' I just followed the read and cut off a block and it was wide open." — Montana running back Marcus Knight on his game-tying 45-yard scoring run.
EASTERN WASHINGTON: The Eagles will protect their 3-0 home record with a game Saturday against Big Sky foe Northern Arizona.
MONTANA: The Grizzlies take to the road to face Portland State in a Big Sky game Saturday.
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