The greatest running back in Montana history followed them 25 yards on UM's first offensive play in the second overtime and all but (no pun intended) guaranteed the top-ranked Grizzlies the top seed in the Division I-AA football playoffs by virtue of a 33-27 double-overtime win Saturday over Division I-A Idaho.
In what turned out to be his final carry in a regular-season game, Humphery broke the grasp of Idaho's blitzing Brad Rice in the backfield, scooted around the left side behind center Brian Pelc and raced into the end zone. Receiver Etu Molden also made a great down-field block near the end zone.
The touchdown, Humphery's 19th of the season, sent 18,056 fans into a frenzy as the Griz won the Little Brown Stein for the second straight year on a raw, windy day at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
"I saw big asses in front of me," said Humphery, who finished with 113 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns. "That's all I saw man, was those big guys up front. Those guys led me to the promised land."
Of course, not to mention into the playoffs on a roll. It was Montana's 10th straight victory and 14th consecutive home win. The Griz finished the regular season 11-1. Idaho finished 1-10, its worst campaign since going 1-9 in 1960. Vandal players refused to attend the postgame press conference.
The Grizzlies, who were the No. 1 seed in last year's playoffs, should get the top spot and three guaranteed home games when the 16-team field is announced Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
"One of the things we talked about is we control a lot of stuff with this win and gain some momentum," said Montana coach Joe Glenn. "So that's a huge win from that standpoint. We secure home-field advantage if we can win, and then go into the tournament with some momentum."
Humphery's touchdown capped a thrilling and dramatic final few minutes on a day when kickers from both teams struggled to master the whipping Hellgate Canyon winds.
Montana kicker Chris Snyder missed a 41-yard field goal wide left with four seconds left in regulation. Snyder, who hit from 33 yards in the first quarter and 26 yards in the third to put Montana ahead 20-14, missed wide left from 47 yards with 3:33 left.
"Going in, I was actually really confident," Snyder said of his 41-yard miss. "It wasn't that deep of a kick, so I went in there pretty confident with it. I just didn't judge the wind well enough. I really didn't think that ball would hook as much as it did."
With the score tied 20-20 at the end of regulation, Montana struck first. John Edwards, who threw for a career-high 304 yards, found senior receiver Etu Molden from 11 yards out on a fade route in the east corner of the north end zone.
Molden, who caught seven passes for 145 yards, gave the Griz a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when he corralled a 25-yard touchdown pass on a fade route. Molden burned Idaho defensive backs Ihge Evero and Sergio Robleto several times on fade patterns.
"I guess it was a confidence-booster as far as the fact we knew we'd have it most of the game," Edwards said. "We went back to it a few times and made plays on it."
The Vandals appeared finished when they faced fourth-and-14 from the 19-yard line in the first OT. Senior quarterback John Welsh, who completed 21 of 28 passes for 227 yards, dropped back and lofted a ball in the direction of Ethan Jones. Griz cornerback Calvin Coleman had good coverage, but the 6-foot-2 Jones made a great grab in the back of the end zone, sending the contest into a second overtime.
"That's two seniors just making a play when you've gotta have one," said second-year Idaho coach Tom Cable, who lost to Montana for the second straight year. "They were in the right coverage for the play. The just really went up and took the ball. I thought the defense was right where they needed to be and the kid just went up and got the ball."
"It's one of those things where you're that close to it being over," said Montana defensive end Ciche Pitcher. "It's not so much a letdown, because you know we're going to come out and we're going to win the game. We were going to come out and do it all over again."
Idaho got the ball first in the second overtime and opted to move to the south end of the field. The Vandals stalled when Griz linebacker Vince Huntsberger, who tallied 16 tackles, made great open-field stops on tight end Michael McCoy on back-to-back plays.
Sophomore kicker Brian Pope lined up from 37 yards away with a chance to put the Vandals ahead 30-27. Holder Adam Mallette had trouble getting the ball down and the kick ended up well short.
Pope entered the game after starting kicker Keith Stamps missed from 38 and 42 yards. Stamps also missed a PAT kick early in the fourth quarter that would have given Idaho a 21-20 lead following a 25-yard touchdown pass from Welsh to Rossi Martin. Pope missed from 42-yards away with 8:52 left in the fourth quarter.
"We brought in Brian Pope to be our kicker; he's a junior college scholarship kicker and he couldn't get it done in fall camp," Cable said. "Stamps beat him out. Our kicker had been up and down all year long. I kind of had enough today. I think anyone would."
Montana never trailed and took a 17-14 halftime lead on the strength of Molden's first touchdown and a 2-yard scoring run by Humphery. The touchdown by Humphery was record breaking in more ways than one. He became the school's all-time leading scorer, surpassing Kirk Duce's total of 280 points. Humphery finished with 288. It also was Humphery's 16th rushing TD of the season, breaking his record of 15 set in 1999, and he padded the mark with the game-winner .
Idaho senior running back Anthony Tenner rushed for a career-high 170 yards and scored on two short runs in the first half. But no one was going to steal Humphery's thunder.
"Our offense has confidence," said Edwards. "When something like that is going on, we have the ability to make plays. We've pretty much proven all year, offensively and defensively, when it's down to the time, we'll make a play. Somebody will."