By Mick Holien
Wow that is what is known as an abrupt season end – just about as abrupt as I can ever recall.
And you know I didn’t even look Sunday morning to examine the post-season pairings and it wasn’t until at Sunday night’s Boys and Girls Club auction in Ronan when Joe McDonald told me which Big Sky Conference teams were in.
And sitting now at the keyboard I guess I’d better check it all out.
The NCAA FCS field of 24 featured a trio of Big Sky Conference teams including co-league champion Southern Utah which was accorded a first round bye.
With 7-1 marks the Thunderbirds shared the title with Weber State, but the Cedar City Utah unit claimed the tie breaker as both finished with 9-2 overall records.
Northern Arizona, headed by deposed head coach Jerome Souers, shared the runner-up spot with Eastern Washington and Sacramento State with a pair of league losses but the Lumberjacks got the nod.
The Grizzlies at 5-3 were mired in a deadlock with Montana State but sported a 7-4 overall mark while the Cats, eight point winners Saturday, were but 5-6 overall.
Meanwhile in Missoula Sunday night – unexplainable to me because of the usual ill timing for a season banquet– junior linebacker Josh Buss and freshman redshirt freshman quarterback Gresch Jensen received the Steve Carlson award as the team’s co MVP.
Buss, a Boise native, was named defensive MVP for the second consecutive year and remains as a nominee for the Buck Buchanan Award as the nation’s MVP. Jensen might well be recognized as Montana’s best-ever freshman QB1.
Predictably Justin Strong won the Golden Helmet as the hardest hitter, while Makena Simis, after a season of setbacks, received the Pat Norwood most Inspirational recognition and also claimed the off-season MVP for his work and dedication.
Reggie Tillman claimed the Tony Barbour award as the player best exemplifying outstanding practice habits and makes an unselfish contribution.
Tucker Schye won the Larry Miller as the top defensive lineman, while David Reese shared the honors on offense. Keenan Currin was the outstanding back, named after legendary Terry Dillon while Dante Olson was the Hauck Family special teams award recipient.
Scout team awards went to Nate Dick, Nick Fouch and Braydon Deming.
So the Griz fail to reach the playoffs for the second straight year and lose for the second consecutive year to Montana State. Montana has won 15 league games and 21 games overall in Bob Stitt’s three-year tenure.
My thoughts that are just In My Opinion Tuesday