Griz Host Southeastern Louisana in Second Round of FCS Playoffs


The FCS Playoffs return to Washington-Grizzly Stadium for the first time since 2015 this week as the sixth-seed Montana Grizzlies host the Southeastern Louisiana Lions in the second round of the tournament for a first-ever meeting between the two programs.

Montana (9-3, 6-2) enters the game after a much-needed week of rest over the Thanksgiving holiday, finishing the regular season tied for second in the Big Sky standings, the highest finish for the Grizzlies for UM since that same 2015 season.

The Lions (8-4, 6-2) come to Missoula from Hammond, La. (45 minutes north of New Orleans), after a nail-biting, come-from-behind 45-44 home win over No. 8/10 Villanova in the opening round of the playoffs.

They finished the regular season tied for second place in the Southland Conference but picked up a marquee 34-0 road win over the league champion Central Arkansas in November to win four of their last five games.

The matchup – set for Saturday, Dec. 7 at 1 p.m. – extends Montana’s FCS-record 24 all-time appearances in the FCS playoffs, while the Lions come to Missoula after picking up the program’s second-ever win in the FCS postseason in just the program’s third trip to the playoffs.

Now in his second year as head coach, Frank Scelfo has the Lions roaring back to the postseason for the first time since 2014 as the Southland Conference Coach of the Year. To do it, he’s relied on a heavy dose of FBS transfers to fill out the roster from notable regional programs like Georgia, Louisiana State, Texas A&M, and Alabama.   

“It’s exciting to have playoff football back in Missoula. It’s a big second-round game against Southeastern Louisiana. I think our fans need to rise up this weekend. Playoff football is always fun, so we need a great Saturday in the stadium,” said UM head coach Bobby Hauck.

“Southeastern Louisiana is obviously a really good football team. They had a great win against Villanova last weekend, it was fun to watch and was an exciting game, and there were a lot of good plays on both sides of the ball. I think coach Scelfo and his staff do a really good job of coaching the team.”

WATCH: Saturday’s second-round FCS playoff game will be streamed LIVE nationwide on ESPN 3, but will not be available on terrestrial TV due to the NCAA’s broadcast rights agreement. As such, all preliminary FCS playoff rounds will be shown on ESPN 3, but the national championship game will be shown nationwide on ABC in 2019, a significant boost in exposure for the subdivision’s premiere event.

Veteran sportscaster Trey Bender will have the play-by-play call, with former Penn State D-Lineman and 12-year NFL veteran Tyoka Jackson serving as analyst.

LISTEN: “Voice of the Griz” Riley Corcoran and longtime analyst Greg Sundberg will bring you the action live from Washington-Grizzly Stadium on KGVO Missoula, the flagship station of the Grizzly Sports Radio Network, and its thirteen affiliates around the state. Live audio web streams can also be found at or on the TuneIn app.

LIVE STATS: Links to live stats can be found at or at

HAPPENINGS: The Griz Walk returns for the 2019 playoffs! The traditional pregame pep rally is set for 10:40 a.m. on Saturday. Join the Grizzly Marching Band in wishing the team well as they leave their final pregame meeting in McGill Hall and head for the locker rooms in the Adams Center.  

GSA TAILGATE: The Montana Grizzly Scholarship Association will also host its usual pregame tailgate party in Memorial Grove, north of Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Food and beverages will be available for purchase, as well as UM merchandise.

GRIZ IN THE POLLS: Montana earned the No. 6 seed in the FCS Playoffs, but dropped to No.7/8 in the final regular-season media and coaches’ polls of the year last week.

In the STATS FCS media poll, the Griz picked up 2,745 points to slot in at No. 7 behind Northern Iowa, and one spot ahead of No. 8 Villanova, which lost to Southeastern Louisiana on week one of the FCS playoffs. In the coaches poll, the Griz earned 441 points to come in at No. 8, just seven points shy of No. 7 Central Arkansas.

The Lions finished the regular season out of the media poll at No. 26 with 346 points but came in at No. 24 on the coaches’ poll.

SERIES HISTORY: Saturday’s game will mark the first-ever meeting between the Griz and the Lions, but has a long history against teams from the Southland Conference – especially in the postseason.

Montana is 15-4 all-time and has never lost at home to a team from the Southland (not including a pair of playoff games vacated in 2011). McNeese State – less than three hours away from SLU – is the only other current FCS team from the state of Louisiana to pick up a win over Montana, holding a 3-3 record all-time against the Griz.

Montana vs. the Southland Conference*
Abilene Christian – 1-0
McNeese State – 3-3
Nicholls State – 1-0
Northwestern State – 3-0
Sam Houston – 3-1
Stephen F. Austin – 4-0
*Not including 2011 vacated games

SCOUTING THE LIONS: Led by former Fresno State QB Chason Virgil, the Lions racked up 602 yards of total offense to erase a 17-point halftime deficit against No. 8 Villanova for a thrilling 45-44 win on week one of the FCS Playoffs.

Southeastern converted a fourth and seven to complete a 75-yard scoring drive and take a one-point lead with under three minutes to play, but the Wildcats answered back with a drive of their own and looked to have sealed the win with a late score.

Late in the drive ‘Nova receiver Jaaron Hayek hauled in a miraculous one-handed, over-the-shoulder grab for a touchdown that would have given them the win, but instead drew an offensive pass interference flag that negated the score, and ultimately led to an SLU win.

The win marked the first postseason victory for the Lions since 2013 and was an indicator of SLU’s ability with a total of 11 All-Southland performers leading the way, despite being picked to finish No. 8 in the league’s preseason poll.

Including Virgil, the Lions list 16 Division-I transfers on their roster, 14 of which come from the FBS ranks, and 14 more of which see considerable action as either a starter or primary backup on their two-deep.

Eight of SLU’s FBS transfers are listed as starters. They include running back Devonte Williams, who played at Indiana and was a third-team all-conference selection, Pat Allen, an offensive lineman from Georgia and first-team All-Southland pick, and Xavier Lewis, an LSU transfer defensive back who landed on the all-conference second team.

The Lions turned heads around the nation on week three of the regular season when they faced the SEC’s Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, giving them all they could handle in a 29-40 loss in Oxford.

With a high-powered offense, SLU’s defense is giving up an average of nearly 400 yards and 26 points per game, setting up a potentially high-scoring affair between the Griz and Lions in Missoula.


AFTER FURTHER REVIEW…: After reviewing the game film of the Grizzlies’ final regular-season contest, Montana State’s statistics crew credited Montana senior linebacker Dante Olson with a forced fumble and an additional tackle on a play at the start of the third quarter involving Logan Jones.

As a result, Olson’s new official season tally of 152 tackles (an FCS-best mark) has broken his previous school record of 151 and increases his two-season total to 303 total tackles.

Entering Saturday’s playoff game, Olson is now Montana’s second all-time tackler with a career total of 370 stops, and only trails UM’s all-time leader and Hall of Famer Vince Huntsberger by 23 tackles.

SPEAKING OF OLSON: The senior from Medford, Ore., added to his long list of accolades following the regular season, being named the Big Sky’s Offensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award – the award he finished third in voting for last season.

TOP TACKLERS: Olson isn’t alone anymore on Montana’s top-40 tacklers of all-time list, with Robby Hauck finishing the regular season with a career total of 215 stops.

Hauck, only a sophomore, was Montana’s second-leading tackler this season with 120 takedowns – the third-most in the Big Sky and twelfth-most in the FCS. After just two years, his career total is now 215 tackles, good enough to put him at (fittingly) No. 37 on UM’s all-time list.

• Alongside Olson, Junior linebacker, and first-team All-Big Sky pick Jace Lewis has also posted eye-popping tackle numbers so far this season. Lewis was the fourth-leading tackler in the conference with 116 stops and was also top-20 in sacks and TFLs.

With a season left to play, the Townsend, Mont., native’s career total of 194 tackles is just 15 shy of breaking into UM’s top-40 list, meaning that by the end of the 2019 season three of the top-40 tacklers in program history could all be suiting up for the Griz at the same time.

CHASING REYNOLDS: Montana sophomore running back and Big Sky Newcomer of the Year Marcus Knight scored a pair of rushing touchdowns at MSU to finish his first regular-season in Missoula with the third-most TDs and points scored in Grizzly history.

Knight’s season rushing TD total of 20 and his overall TD total of 21 for 126 points is second-only to Grizzly great Chase Reynolds, who had 22 rushing TDs in both 2008 and 2009, had 23 total TDs in 2008 and 24 in 2009, and scored 138 points in ’08, and 144 in ’09.

At an average of 10.5 points per game, Knight is the highest scorer remaining in the FCS playoffs and currently ranked fourth overall in the nation. He’s scored the third-most touchdowns overall in the FCS this season and would be tied for fourth with Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins on the FBS list at 21 scores.

Knight is the only Grizzly in program history to score three touchdowns in four different games, picking up a hat-trick against North Alabama, Idaho State, Eastern Washington, and Idaho.

His 20 career rushing touchdowns are currently the ninth-most in program history, tied with Hall of Fame QB Dave Dickenson and Josh Branen on UM’s all-time list. He needs just two more on the ground to tie his position coach Justin Green‘s career total of 22 career rushing scores.

CATCHES ON CATCHES: Senior Jerry Louie-McGee extended his school record in career pass receptions to 221 with seven at MSU. The Griz now also boast two other receivers among the top-20 in career catches, with Samuel Akem and Samori Toure neck-and-neck with 136 and 135 grabs, respectively.

RAMPAGING RECEIVERS: Akem and Toure are both now listed among Montana’s top-20 all-time leaders in touchdown catches, with Akem at 20 and Toure now at 17 thanks to 10 this season and seven in three of the last four games of the year.

With 1,107 yards this season, Toure is the first Grizzly to pass the 1,000-yard threshold since Jamaal Jones in 2015. The junior from Portland, Ore., has been on a tear this year with five, 100-plus yard games, including a career-high 193 yards against Weber State.

SUPER SNEED: Despite missing two games to injury, Montana quarterback Dalton Sneed will enter the postseason looking to put a bow on a stellar two-year career in maroon and silver.

The senior from Scottsdale passed Craig Ochs to land at No. 10 on UM’s all-time passing yards list with 5,443 to date, and his 41 passing TDs are also a top-10 mark as well.

Entering his first playoff game as a Grizzly, Sneed has been prolific in just 23 games, now third all-time in passing yards-per-game and total offense per-game behind legends Drew Miller and Dave Dickenson.

The 2018 Big Sky Newcomer of the Year, Sneed earned an all-conference honorable mention from the league’s coaches this year, again, despite missing games to injury.

UP NEXT: It’s win or go home time, but should Montana win on Saturday, the Griz will advance to the FCS quarterfinal where they will face the winner of the Weber State/Kennesaw State game which is also scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday. If Weber wins, the Griz will travel to Ogden. If Kennesaw wins, Montana will play at home for a second-straight week.

Montana could advance to the FCS semifinal after that, where the possibility exists of a rematch with Monmouth or matchups against No. 2 James Madison, No. 7 South Dakota State or Northern Iowa.