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Injuries come to a head as Montana Grizzlies bow out of FCS playoffs

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Posted at 5:29 PM, Dec 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-11 19:41:30-05

HARRISONBURG, Va. — Injuries have been a storyline all season long for the Montana Grizzly football team, and on Friday night in the FCS quarterfinal round at Bridgeforth Stadium in Harrisonburg, Virginia, those injuries caught up to the Grizzlies as they lost a pair of key players early en route to losing to James Madison University and ending their season at 10-3.

One week after tying Marc Mariani's career receiving touchdowns record at UM, Griz wideout Samuel Akem was injured on the first drive of the game after a 35-yard catch, and would don a sling on the sideline the rest of the game and not return.

Photos: Montana Grizzlies fall to James Madison

Then, early in the second quarter, disaster struck again, as quarterback Cam Humphrey was hit hard on a scramble and would not return, leaving Montana without two of its senior leaders on offense.

"We really kind of just took it upon the offensive line and just kind of told each other we have to be able to run the ball efficiently and get some yards and we did toward the end but just not good enough," right tackle Dylan Cook said.

Humphrey exited the game having completed 7 of 12 passes for 88 yards. Kris Brown took over at QB from there but struggled, going just 1-for-5 and was sacked once, so third-string QB Robbie Patterson was handed the reigns in the second half.

Patterson, a redshirt sophomore from Medford, Oregon, who began his college football career at Saddleback Community College, has had limited minutes this year, but still showcased his talent a few times as a dual-threat QB. He finished 7-for-17 passing for 44 yards but threw two interceptions, however, he did run for 65 yards, but UM's offense was unable to find the end zone.

"Outstanding play by Robbie Patterson," Cook said. "He came in with not a lot of reps on the season and came in and led the offense on two pretty good drives just couldn't close them out but kudos to him."

Montana's defense, which had three sacks and forced two turnovers, did its part in keeping the Griz in the game. After Humphrey left the game with the Griz trailing 7-3, Jace Lewis forced a fumble that was recovered by Patrick O'Connell, but UM couldn't turn it into points. A few drives later, JMU went 96 yards in four plays, capped off by a 50-yard touchdown run by Latrele Palmer to make it 14-3 Dukes. It was the second long touchdown of the day at that point after Cole Johnson's 82-yard connection with Devin Ravenel in the first quarter, and Montana never recovered from there.

UM was also without defensive end Joe Babros, adding to a mountain of health woes the team has battled this season, especially on the defensive line and at the running back and quarterback positions. And on Friday night those injuries became too much to overcome against a team with James Madison's pedigree and talent.

"We've got a really competitive group and you get to the point where, we've got a pretty young team to start with, and when you start losing guys you get younger and younger and eventually against this level of competition, that takes its toll," Griz coach Bobby Hauck said. "Playing a really good opponent, it's hard for guys that haven't played much or are that youthful to come in and play."

"Everything's tough in this program, we're kind of used to adversity and we take that on as a challenge with a smile on our face because we look at it as another chance to step up and show who we are," Cook added.