(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – Record-setting linebacker Dante Olson earned first-team honors, and quarterback Dalton Sneed was named the league’s Newcomer of the Year as the University of Montana placed a total of 11 players into 13 All-Big Sky positions the league announced Tuesday.
As the national leader in tackles with a school record 151, Olson was the only Grizzly to earn a place on the first team. Sneed, who also set a school record for most single-game rushing yards by a quarterback, was the only Grizzly to win an individual award and earn an honorable mention.
Montana also placed four players on the second team, one on the third team, and received six honorable mentions (including Sneed). The only other Grizzly to earn two accolades was junior receiver and return specialist Jerry Louie-McGee, who was a second-team returner and an honorable mention receiver, taking two awards for the second year in a row.
Olson added to his award haul this week with a first-team recognition. On Monday, he was named a finalist for the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award, and on Sunday he earned the Grizzlies’ Defensive MVP and the Steve Carlson MVP award for the team’s top overall player.
His haul of 151 tackles this season were the most in all of Division-I football (FCS and FBS), and also finished the season ranked second in the Big Sky in forced fumbles (three), fourth in the league in sacks (6 overall, 5.5/game), and eighth in tackles for loss (11 overall, 1/game).
The Medford, Oregon, native was named ROOT Sports Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week three times in the first five weeks of the season, and the STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Week following the Sept. 8 game against Drake where he recorded 16 tackles, two sacks, 3.5 TFLs, a forced fumble, and a pass breakup.
A true dual-threat QB, Sneed led the Grizzlies in rushing and passing this season with 675 yards on the ground and 2,723 over the air, making him the No. 2 player in the Big Sky in total offense, and the No. 13 player in the nation in points responsible for (168).
A 2018 team captain, the Scottsdale, Arizona, native earned the Grizzlies’ Offensive MVP honor at the awards banquet on Sunday. His 22 passing TDs rank in Montana’s top-15 of all time and his 28 touchdowns tie him at No. 9 on UM’s all-time touchdowns responsible for list. His total offense per game output of 308.9 yards is the fourth-most in UM single-season history as well.
His school-record 206 yards rushing against Sacramento State where the third-most in the nation by a quarterback this season, earning him the Big Sky’s ROOT Sports Offensive Player of the Week Award, and the College Sports Madness Player of the Week.
Decorated senior linebacker Josh Buss, the preseason Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, earned second-team honors for the second-straight season, despite battling injury all year. A team captain in 2018, Buss was the team’s third-leading tackler (75), tied for the second-most forced fumbles in the Big Sky (3) and the sixth-most sacks (5.5).
Sophomore receiver “Sammy” Akem earned second-team honors after catching at least one touchdown pass in eight games, and two TD grabs in five games for 13 total on the season, the most in the Big Sky and the sixth-most in the nation.
Montana’s leading receiver with a Grizzly top-20 total of 863 yards, Akem’s 13 TD catches is the fifth-most in a single season in Grizzly history, tied with legends like Marc Mariani, Marvin Turk, and Mike Rice.
Another a sophomore on the all-conference second-team is linebacker Jace Lewis, Montana’s top special teams contributor and a key part of UM’s Big Sky-best kickoff coverage unit with 62 tackles on the season, ranking in the league’s top-40.
Defensive end Jesse Sims was Montana’s ninth-leading tackler this season, playing a significant role in UM’s Big Sky No. 3 rush defense that allowed an average of just 179.2 yards per game to earn third-team all-conference honors.
The Stevensville native and legacy 37 jersey holder earned a place on the third-team all-conference list. He was presented the Larry Miller Award at the team banquet on Sunday alongside tackle David Shaw, who also earned an All-Big Sky honorable mention.
Rounding out the all-conference selections were honorable mention kicker Tim Semenza who connected on the fourth-most field goals in the league this year at a 76.5 percent rate.
Academic All-District honoree and team captain Reggie Tilleman earned an honorable mention after winning the Tony Barbour Award for the player that best exemplifies Grizzly football for a second-straight season at the team awards banquet.
Jerry Rice Award Finalist Robby Hauck also received an all-conference honorable mention. Hauck posted the most tackles (95) by any freshman in FCS or FBS football this season, the second most behind Olson on the team and the fifth-most in the Big Sky.
The Grizzlies are expected to return eight of their 11 all-conference honorees for the 2019 season.
2018 Big Sky Football All-Conference
Offensive Player of the Year: Jake Maier, UC Davis
Defensive Player of the Year: Jay-Tee Tiuli, Eastern Washington
Freshman of the Year: Josh Davis, Weber State
Newcomer of the Year: Dalton Sneed, Montana
Inside Linebacker – Dante Olson, Junior
Wide Receiver – Samuel Akem, Sophomore
Returner – Jerry Louie-McGee, Junior
Inside Linebacker – Josh Buss, Senior
Special Teams – Jace Lewis, Sophomore
End – Jesse Sims, Junior
Wide Receiver – Jerry Louie-McGee, Junior
Quarterback – Dalton Sneed, Junior
Placekicker – Tim Semenza, Junior
Tackle – David Shaw, Senior
End – Reggie Tilleman, Senior
Safety – Robby Hauck, Freshman