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Top Grizzlies: Who to watch for Montana in FCS national championship

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Posted at 3:05 PM, Jan 06, 2024

FRISCO, Texas — The Montana Grizzlies take on the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the FCS national championship game in less than 24 hours. The Griz will look to lean on some key players as they hope to win their third national championship in program history.

First and foremost, it is the star of the playoffs so far for the Griz: Junior Bergen. With three touchdowns in the return game across their quarterfinal and semifinal matchups, the home-state hero from Billings seems to only shine brighter the bigger the stage gets, and the Griz will hope he can do it one more time and somehow etch his name deeper into Montana’s record books.

Offensively, it comes down to Clifton McDowell. The transfer quarterback and Texas native has been electric for the Griz since being name the full-time starter back in late September, scorching opposing defenses both in the air and on the ground to the tune of 1,861 passing yards, 751 rushing yards and 22 total touchdowns. The dual-threat quarterback will need to be nothing short of perfect against a stellar Jackrabbit defense as he returns to his home state for the biggest game of his life.

On the other side of the ball, Montana will look to lean on Braxton Hill as it has all season. The Anaconda native and defensive captain has led a blitz-heavy linebacker corps and leads the team with 116 tackles. He and the rest of the Griz defense will have their hands full, tasked with corralling a Jackrabbit offense that has averaged almost 40 points per game this year.

Heading into the championship those three will undoubtedly have more eyes on them than most, but it is anyone’s guess who will shine on the big stage and potentially provide the performance that could make the difference between the sweet taste of victory or the agony of defeat.

Kickoff between Montana and South Dakota State in the FCS national championship game is set for noon (MT) Sunday at Toyota Stadium.