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With Big Sky championship in hand, No. 2 Griz secure homefield advantage in FCS playoffs

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Posted at 5:18 PM, Nov 19, 2023

MISSOULA — It's official.

One half of the FCS playoff bracket could potentially run right through Washington-Grizzly Stadium as on Sunday during the FCS playoff selection show, the Montana Grizzlies were officially awarded the No. 2 seed. That means Montana carries homefield advantage all the way through the semifinal round, which sets up a favorable road for the Griz as they look to get to the national championship in Frisco, Texas at the start of the new year on Jan. 7.

"It feels awesome, we're a really blessed team," junior wide receiver Junior Bergen said. "A couple months back, nobody really believed in us but the guys in the room. We just put our heads down and went back to work, and we ended up in the spot that we're in now."

After beating their rivals on Saturday in Missoula, the Grizzlies locked up the Big Sky Conference title, improved to 10-1, and were officially selected as the No. 2 seed in this year's postseason bracket, solely behind reigning FCS champion South Dakota State.

South Dakota and Idaho round out the top four, while UAlbany, Montana State, Furman and Villanova round out the top eight seeds as the teams who will get first-round byes to start the playoffs.

But those top two seeds are coveted, one of which now belongs to Montana.

"We're good at home, somebody is going to have to come in here and beat us, not that that can't happen, certainly it can," UM head coach Bobby Hauck said.

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The 2023 FCS playoff bracket.

And earning the week off before starting play up again is big for this Griz program.

"The best part of this whole deal is the way the playoffs are set up these days, is that we don't play next weekend, so we get to sit and enjoy this, marinate in it for a week before we even know who we play so that'll be great," Hauck said. "We can put this game behind us after celebrating the Big Sky championship for a few days and get ready to go.

"We've got as good a shot as anybody at winning it, but you've got to win the first one before you get to the second one, that's the playoffs."

It's Montana's first Big Sky title since 2009 — Hauck's final year in his first stint — and sealing it over their rival proved a memorable scene in Missoula as they had the town buzzing and now will soak it in before getting ready for the push toward a national title.

"We've been right there, we just haven't been able to quite get it," Hauck said. "It's a wonderful deal for our team and for our university. I'm excited for our guys. I've had the chance to do it a few times. I was really excited for these guys.

"It's awesome just knowing all of the hard work that this team and this program has put in has finally paid off. The brotherhood inside that locker room and all of the coaches, we've put a lot of work in in the offseason and during the season. It's just special and I just couldn't be more proud to be part of this program."

Montana will have this next week off and will return to action on Saturday, Dec. 2 against the winner of Lafayette (9-2) and Delaware (8-3) with kickoff slated to be under the lights at 7 p.m.