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Montana quarterback Clifton McDowell enters NCAA transfer portal

Clifton McDowell
Posted at 7:06 PM, Jan 09, 2024

MISSOULA — Montana Grizzlies quarterback Clifton McDowell will finish his college football career somewhere else.

The senior who led the Grizzlies to the FCS national championship game this past weekend in Frisco, Texas, announced via social media Tuesday evening that he is entering the NCAA transfer portal. McDowell has one year of eligibility remaining in his college career.

"I would like to thank University of Montana and the coaching staff for allowing me to be a part of such a historic season," he wrote on social media. "Grateful for all the memories made this season. Extremely thankful for all the love I have received from the state of Montana, it was truly one of a kind. After great consideration and prayer I have decided to enter the transfer portal with one year of eligibility remaining."

McDowell added, "Thank you Montana for everything! Forever a Griz!" in the caption to his post.

McDowell, a Spring, Texas, native and fifth-year senior who transferred to Montana from Central Arkansas last summer, split reps at QB with Sam Vidlak to start the season, but fully took over the starting job in Week 5 when Montana hosted Idaho State.

From there, McDowell engineered a campaign and offense that led the Grizzlies to the Big Sky Conference championship, a blowout win over rival Montana State and a memorable playoff run that was capped this past weekend against South Dakota State in UM's first appearance in a national title game since 2009.

For his efforts, McDowell was named the Big Sky Conference newcomer of the year.

McDowell's play — which included a physical running style and improved passing each week that saw him win Big Sky player of the week early in November after UM thrashed Sacramento State at home, plus his fired-up celebrations during games — made him a fan favorite in his lone season at Montana.

McDowell finished the season 160 for 274 on passing attempts for 2,026 yards and 13 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He also rushed for 753 yards and nine more scores.

He was undefeated as a starter for the Grizzlies up until Sunday's 23-3 loss to the Jackrabbits where he went 22 for 39 for 165 yards and threw one interception while gaining 34 yards rushing. McDowell also lost a fumble in the game and was sacked four times.

As the season went on, the Grizzlies began to get true freshman Keali'i Ah Yat into the mix sparingly to pair with McDowell.

McDowell's transfer will mark the fifth stop in his career. He began at FBS Lafayette where he spent two seasons before leaving after one of his coaches passed away. McDowell then transferred to Kilgore College in Texas for a season, before heading to FCS Central Arkansas, and ultimately finding his way to Missoula this past season.

McDowell posted on Instagram after the game on Sunday that indicated he might come back to the Grizzlies, saying: "Never satisfied more work to do ....We will be back to finish the job ... until next season," but has since changed course.

He is the third known player to enter the transfer portal from Montana, joining true freshman running back Iverson Young and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Nick Williams, who both entered the portal before the season concluded.

Vidlak, a rising redshirt junior, Ah Yat, a rising redshirt freshman, Kaden Huot, a rising redshirt sophomore, Gage Sliter, a rising redshirt freshman, and incoming true freshman Luke Flowers are the current quarterbacks on UM's roster.