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The wait is over: Montana set to clash with South Dakota State for shot at title, immortality

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Posted at 9:05 PM, Jan 06, 2024

FRISCO, Texas — At long last, the time is finally here.

After the Grizzlies started their season in fall camp way back in the beginning of August, it's all led to this moment in Frisco as they now get set to play for the FCS national championship, something their seniors have been waiting for their entire careers.

"It's been really cool man, like this is my senior year," center AJ Forbes said. "Everything I've ever worked for, ever prayed for, ever wished for is here right now."

All of the hard work, the offseason training, winter conditioning, spring ball, summer workouts, losses, victories, injuries, and more, have brought this group of Grizzlies to the doorstep of a national title, that would cap off a season that's been the dream year for all involved with UM.

"I guess it didn't really set in how much of this season has meant to the fans until like a couple of weeks ago," senior linbacker Levi Janacaro said. "People at basketball games, like people just around town come up to you and tell you how proud of you that they are, and not just for football, but just how we've carried ourselves as individuals.

"It's been cool to feel the love of Griz nation."

Montana has blown expectations out of the water this season as the Griz weren't favorably picked in the preseason polls, but that's why you play the games.

And after a stumble against Northern Arizona that feels like an eternity ago, the Grizzlies bounced back and conquered every other obstacle along the way.

"It's definitely a blessing," senior safety TraJon Cotton said. "This is kind of why I came to the University of Montana, coach (Bobby) Hauck, when I was in the transfer portal and came on my official visit, first thing he talked about was winning Big Sky championships, winning national championships, and it's only fitting that my senior year here, you know, we got at least one of those, trying to get the second one as well.

"I couldn't write the story any better than this."

Of course, they must simultaneously soak in the moment and stay focused, but they're aware the opportunity in front of them is here because of many highs and lows.

"At the end of the day, we got to keep it just like our regular season games and our playoff games earlier in the year, and we got to do our 1/11th and whatnot," senior linebacker Braxton Hill said. "But just knowing that you're playing for a national championship and a program goal and a team goal, it's really special, and just trying to soak in every moment and then go do my best this Sunday."

"I like our team. We've done a nice job," Hauck added. "We've worked hard. I think our guys are looking forward to the game on Sunday. Hopefully we have a good performance because we're going to need that to compete with South Dakota State."

The talking and buildup is complete, and with Montana across their chest, and at their backs, there's nothing left to do but play ball and see if this group can join the hallowed teams of 1995 and 2001 in immortality.

"It's something that I don't take lightly. And you know, all the other Montana guys, we talk about it all the time," Hill said. "And when we're all home for Christmas break, people are loving and supporting us and it's super cool. And you know, we're gonna do our absolute best to represent Montana and the state of Montana as well."