Montana quarterback Brady Gustafson is hit as he throws against Southern Utah at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. (SLIM KIMMEL/MTN Sports)

University of Montana athletics release

MISSOULA – Montana quarterback Brady Gustafson has already surpassed one of Dave Dickenson’s school records this season. No other QB in UM history had connected on more passes than Gustafson did on Sept. 24 at Cal Poly when he broke Dickenson’s record for completions in a game with 47.

Now Gustafson is in the running to do something else no Montana quarterback has done since “Super Dave”: win the national Offensive Player of the Year award.

Gustafson was added to the STATS FCS national Offensive Player of the Year award watch list Wednesday, cementing his place among the best in the nation.

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Montana has produced 12 finalists for the FCS Offensive Player of the Year award (formally the Walter Payton Award), but only Dickenson has taken home the coveted prize after leading the Griz to the 1995 National Championship.

After progressing through what some perceived to be a slow start to the season, Gustafson has put together four-straight weeks of unparalleled quarterback play that led UM to three big home wins.

As such, “Gus” and the Grizzlies have climbed to the top of the national offensive statistic leaderboards with the third-best scoring offense in all of FCS football, averaging 46.7 points-per-game.

For Montana head coach Bob Stitt, Gustafson’s success doesn’t come as a surprise.

“I can’t believe that he hasn’t been on it before. I can’t imagine anybody playing at a higher level at the quarterback position than Brady has the last four weeks.”

Gustafson is currently ranked No. 9 in the nation in total passing yards with 1,801 to his

Montana quarterback Brady Gustafson looks to throw against Sacramento State at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. (SLIM KIMMEL/MTN Sports)
Montana quarterback Brady Gustafson looks to throw against Sacramento State at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. (SLIM KIMMEL/MTN Sports)

name so far this season on a 67.9 percent completion rate.

Montana fans got to see what those numbers equate to on the field over the past two weeks as he led Montana to 128 unanswered points in six quarters of play, and the first two consecutive 60-plus point victories. His numbers would swell higher, but he was relieved by Chad Chalich in the third quarter of both of those games.

While Gustafson stands at an imposing 6-foot-7 with a wingspan to match a 747, it’s not his physical makeup that has led to Gus’ success so far this season. For Stitt, it’s what he has between the ears that sets him apart.

“He can make all the throws, but he’s making great decisions with the ball and is just one step ahead of the defense.”

Also added to the watch list was South Dakota State QB Taryn Christion, who was under center for the Jackrabbits when they visited Missoula last season in the FCS playoffs, a 24-17 win for the Griz. Christion led the Jacks back into the top-10 last week with an upset over North Dakota State in Fargo.

Gustafson and the Grizzlies will get up close and personal with four other Offensive Player of the Year watch list members over two weeks. Northern Arizona receiver Emmanuel Butler and QB Case Cookus (whose status is in question for Saturday’s game) are both members of the Player of the Year watch list.

In two weeks, the Grizzlies will square off against Eastern Washington QB Gage Gubrud and the 2015 award winner Cooper Kupp.

A national panel of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will vote on the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year following the regular season. Also this season, STATS will honor the outstanding defensive player in the FCS, a freshman player of the year, a coach of the year and a scholar-athlete of the year.