Montana Grizzlies’ Dante Olson repeats as Big Sky Conference player of the week

Posted at 11:01 AM, Sep 10, 2018
Linebacker Dante Olson returns an interception in the third quarter of their game against Northern Iowa on Sept. 1. (Griz Communications Photo)

(Editor’s note: University of Montana media release)

MISSOULA — Dante Olson put on a show-stopping performance in his first career start against Northern Iowa last week and delivered an encore worthy of a standing ovation on Saturday against Drake, once again posting the most tackles of anyone in the Big Sky Conference.

Now, after just his second start in maroon and silver, the junior linebacker has been named the ROOT Sports Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week for the second-straight week, the league announced Monday.

Like it was against UNI, Olson’s stat line against Drake was video game-like, with 16 total tackles (seven solo), three and a half tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and two sacks that came in the span of three plays.

“That’s a pretty big day,” said head coach Bobby Hauck following Saturday’s game. “He’s obviously off to a great start to the season. We need him to be that guy.”

Olson’s 16 tackles were by far the most of any defender in the Big Sky on week two, with the closest competitors notching 12 takedowns (Landon Stice of Weber State and Keifer Glau of UNC). His two sacks tied for the most of any other player in the league this season as well.

His combined 29 tackles on the year rank him at No. 3 in the FCS and No. 1 in the league, averaging 1.45 takedowns per game. His three total sacks on the year rank him at No. 6 nationally and No. 1 in the Big Sky as well. He’s also nationally ranked at No. 11 in tackles for loss, putting him at No. 2 in the Big Sky.

Olson also received a tip of the cap from the college sports publication College Sports Madness, earning their Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week award for a second straight week as well on Sunday.

While Olson posted the big numbers, Montana’s defensive unit had a stellar day overall, pressuring Drake QB Grant Kraemer all day to pick up seven total sacks and force five turnovers.

One of the biggest contributors to the flood of turnovers was sophomore cornerback Dareon Nash, who would have been a strong candidate for Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week if it weren’t for Olson’s barrage of tackles.

Nash logged three tackles, one pass breakup, recovered a fumble, and picked off two interceptions, returning the second one 40 yards for his first career touchdown.

Montana will look to keep up its defensive bonanza on its first road trip of the season this week, heading to Macomb, Illinois, for a tough test against the Western Illinois Leathernecks of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud and UC Davis punter Daniel Whelan were named the Big Sky Conference offensive and special teams players of the week, respectively.