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Live coverage: Sixth-seeded Montana hosts Eastern Washington in the second round of the FCS playoffs

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Griz vs EWU pregame Graves

Montana sophomore Garrett Graves catches the ball during pregame warmups as the Grizzlies prepare to host Eastern Washington in the second round of the FCS playoffs on Friday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.

Live coverage as the sixth-seeded Montana Grizzlies host Eastern Washington in the second round of the 2021 FCS playoffs Dec. 3, 2021 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

PREGAME: 

The sixth-seeded Griz (9-2) are hosting the Eastern Washington Eagles (10-2) in a rematch of their Oct. 2 game in Cheney, Washington, which was an instant classic that the Eagles won. During that game, UM took a 21-10 lead into the fourth quarter at Roos Field in Cheney, Washington, but the Griz were outscored 24-7 in the final frame of that 34-28 loss.

Since that loss, the Grizzlies won six of their final seven games to earn a first-round bye. The Eagles dropped games to Weber State and Montana State over that same stretch which caused them to drop just enough that they ended up unseeded, a decision some of the Eagles disagreed with.

UM had a bye in the first round of the playoffs after closing the regular season with a 29-10 home win over Montana State. Eastern Washington opened the postseason by toughing out a 19-9 home win over Northern Iowa to set up the rematch.

Montana junior defensive tackle Eli Alford is going through pregame warmups after missing the past two games because of an injury on Nov. 6. He's the backup to sophomore Alex Gubner, but they regularly rotate during games.

Montana wins the coin toss and defers to the second half. Eastern Washington will receive the opening kickoff.

First quarter

On the 1st play of the game, Eastern Washington QB Eric Barriere takes a deep shot to WR Talolo Limu-Jones, who said when the bracket was revealed that Montana "didn't deserve" a seed in the playoffs. Griz safety Robby Hauck got away with a little bit of contact. No flag. Seemingly every Montana fan stayed on their feet from kickoff until the Griz forced a punt on the opening drive. Junior Bergen tries to field a bouncing punt, muffs it but recovers it at the 10-yard line.

Eastern Washington likely isn't going to kick to Malik Flowers after he returned one for a TD in October. So, the Griz get the ball in his hands on a jet sweep, and he goes 75 yards down the left sideline for a TD on the 3rd play.

SCORE: UM 7, EWU 0, 11:34 left in 1st quarter.

Montana CB Omar Hicks Onu hustles for a TD-saving tackle as Talolo Limu-Jones gets open over the middle of the field for a 58-yard catch. Eric Barriere then fakes a run, connects with Andrew Boston for a 19-yard TD. Eagles needed just 3 plays.

SCORE: UM 7, EWU 7, 10:28 left 1Q.

Garrett Graves fumbles the kickoff, forced by Jusstis Warren, and Graves recovers it at the Montana 15-yard line. Griz end up going three and out on their first drive. Tied 7-7 against Eastern Washington early in the first quarter.

After Eastern Washington throws an incompletion on 3-and-1 at its own 47 yard line, Montana junior Robby Hauck is back to field the second punt by EWU. Freshman Junior Bergen is pulled after fielding a bouncing ball on the first punt and muffing it before recovering it.

Montana QB Cam Humphrey is sacked for the 1st time, by Cale Lindsay, and gets hurried by Mitchell Johnson on 3rd down, resulting in an incompeltion. Brian Buschini, a semifinalist for FCS punter of the year, booms a punt 54 yards.

Eastern Washington shows its plethora of skill players as QB Eric Barriere launches a 54-yard TD pass to Jakobie Jones. The Eagles have four All-Big Sky receivers. Jones isn't one of them.

SCORE: EWU 14, Montana 7, with 4:16 left in the first quarter.

Montana QB Cam Humphrey is sacked for the second time in the first quarter. He was sacked just three times in the first game against Eastern Washington.

Kevin Macias bangs through a 37-yard field goal. 15 in a row for him.

SCORE: EWU 14, UM 10, with 0:29 left in the first quarter

End first quarter: Eastern Washington 14, Montana 10

Second quarter

Eastern Washington running back Dennis Merritt dodges three tacklers, including one in the backfield, as he rips off a 57-yard touchdown run.

SCORE: EWU 21, Montana 10, with 12:56 left in the second quarter.

Montana settles for a 44-yard field goal attempt on a drive that featured a 31-yard kickoff return by Garrett Graves and a 24-yard run by Xavier Harris. Kevin Macias splits the uprights for the 16th consecutive time.

SCORE: EWU 21, UM 13, with 11:46 left in the second quarter.

Montana senior safety Gavin Robertson, who missed the first game against Eastern Washington, lays the hammer on wide receiver Talolo Limu-Jones, who said the Griz "didn't deserve" a playoff seed, after a catch over the middle of the field. The Wa-Griz crowd is loving it. On the next play, Montana junior safety Robby Hauck is called for targeting. The plays is under review. After review, there is no foul for targeting. Robby Hauck gets to stay in the game.

Eastern Washington lines up to go for it on 4th-and-2 at its 47, but the Eagles are called for a false start. On 4th-and-7, the Eagles opt to punt, Missoula Loyola grad Ryan Tirrell blocks the punt and Missoula Big Sky grad Levi Janacaro recovers it at the 17-yard line. Four plays later, Montana QB Cam Humphrey pitches the ball to RB Junior Bergen, who rushes left and cuts back for a 5-yard TD. The Griz opt for the PAT instead of going for 2.

SCORE: EWU 21, UM 20, with 8:37 left in the second quarter.

Montana LB Jace Lewis drops an interception on second down, but the Griz force a three-and-out. Junior Bergen returns the punt 21 yards to the Eastern Washington 41-yard line. Montana wastes the good field position, going three and out. Cole Grossman seemed to get held a bit on a third-down pass intended for him, but no flag.

Eastern Washington lines up to go for it on fourth-and-4 from Montana's 28-yard line but calls timeout. The Eagles then go for it, and QB Eric Barriere throws an incompletion under pressure from Griz LB Pat O'Connell.

Montana goes three-and-out, but Brian Buschini flips the field with a 54-yard punt and minus-2 return yards after a tackle by Trevin Gradney. Eastern Washington takes over at its own 13-yard line up 21-20 on Montana with about 3 minutes left in the second quarter but can't manage anything before the clock hits all zeroes.

End second quarter: Eastern Washington 21, Montana 20

Third quarter

Another big special teams return for Montana. This one is a 27-yard kickoff return by Garrett Graves to the UM 48-yard line to open the second half. Make it 17 consecutive made field goals for Montana kicker Kevin Macias. This one is good from 46 yards.

SCORE: Montana 23, Eastern Washington 21, with 13:53 left in the third quarter.

Two plays after Eastern Washington center Connor Crist leaves with an injury, Montana LB Marcus Welnel sacks Eric Barriere on 3rd down to force a 3-and-out. Junior Bergen returns the punt 37 yards to the EWU 8-yard line. Montana needs just one play to score as running back Xavier Harris rushes 8 yards for a touchdown.

SCORE: Griz 30, Eastern Washington 21, with 12:47 left in the third quarter.

Montana's defense is off to a hot start this half, forcing back-to-back three-and-outs. The Griz are up 30-21 and have scored 20 unanswered points.

Montana punter Brian Buschini had his punt partially blocked by Kameron Lane. Eastern Washington takes over at its own 48-yard line after a 23-yard punt.

Eastern Washington had an opening to get back in the game, but Eric Barriere overthrows a wide-open Freddie Roberson for what would've been a touchdown. The Eagles punt, but the Griz are called for roughing the kicker, giving EWU a first down at the UM 37.

Gavin Robertson nearly picks off a second-down pass in the end zone. On the next play, Eric Barriere fires a bullet to Talolo Limu-Jones for a 4-yard TD. That drive included roughing the kicker and roughing the passer penalties on UM.

SCORE: Griz 30, EWU 28, with 6:38 left  in the third quarter.

Montana's Garrett Graves with a 33-yard kickoff return, his longest of the day. He has 131 yards on five returns, an average of 26.2 per return. 

Three plays later, Montana QB Cam Humphrey connects with WR Sammy Akem for a 44-yard catch-and-run touchdown. That's his 28th career touchdown catch. He needs one more to tie Marc Mariani for the school record.

SCORE: UM 37, EWU 28, with 5:27 left in the third quarter.

Three plays later, Montana QB Cam Humphrey hits tight end Cole Grossman for a 5-yard touchdown. This thing has swung wildly in Montana's favor.

SCORE: Griz 44, Eastern Washington 28, with 2:18 left in the third quarter.

Eastern Washington WR Talolo Limu-Jones drops a deep pass that might've been a walk-in TD. UM's Robby Hauck then forces a fumble, but EWU recovers. On fourth-and-inches, the Eagles false start and opt to punt instead.

End third quarter: Montana 44, Eastern Washington 28

Fourth quarter

Eastern Washington goes for it on fourth-and-2 from the Montana 48-yard line. Eric Barriere takes a deep shot to Talolo Limu-Jones, but  it's an incompletion with Nash Fouch in coverage. Griz lead 44-28 with 10:42 to play.

Montana QB Cam Humphrey throws a 30-yard TD strike to WR Sammy Akem. That's TD catch No. 29 for Akem, tying him with Marc Mariani for the school record. Humphrey's 2-point pass is incomplete.

SCORE: Montana 50, Eastern Washington 28, with 8:17 left in the game.

Montana CB Justin Ford is down on the field and gingerly limps off. CB Omar Hicks Onu is down and walks off under his own power. CB Corbin Walker also down and needs a little help getting off the field. Ford is back out there, with Trevin Gradney.

Eastern Washington WR Talolo Limu-Jones makes a great play to catch a 35-yard TD in tight coverage. The ruling of a TD stands after review.

SCORE: UM 50, EWU 35, with 4:57 to play.

Montana CB Justin Ford intercepts Eastern Washington QB Eric Barriere and returns it 55 yards for a touchdown.

SCORE: UM 57, EWU 35, with 2:08 left in the game.

On his 80th pass of the game, Eastern Washington QB Eric Barriere hits Jakobie James for a 16-yard TD. 2-point pass fails. He's 47 of 80 for 530 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT.

SCORE: UM 57, EWU 41, with 0:05 to play.

Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at frank.gogola@missoulian.com.

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