In his first year of college football, Montana quarterback Gresch Jensen did what many thought to be impossible: come in as an injury replacement and lead the Griz to one of the top overall offenses in the FCS as a freshman.
Linebacker Josh Buss did something that many thought to be impossible too, dominating the Big Sky or a second-straight season after racking up 20 tackles for loss as a sophomore.
Both players were game changers for the Griz in 2017, and their efforts have not gone unnoticed.
After leading Montana to a winning season at 7-4, Jensen and Buss have both been named finalists for two different national player of the year awards.
Buss, who won his second-straight Defensive MVP award on Sunday, is now a finalist for the STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award for national defensive player of the year.
Jensen, who was also named the team’s offensive MVP last week, is a finalist for the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award for the nation’s top freshman.
The duo was named to their respective award watch lists in late October/early November, and will now be in the running to be crowned kings of the FCS at the awards banquet and presentation scheduled for January 5 in Frisco, Texas, on the eve of the national championship game.
Jensen is the second-straight finalist for the Rice award, with Jerry Louie-McGee finishing seventh in the voting in 2016.
Buss is the eleventh Grizzly to be in the running for the defensive player of the year award. The last Montana player to take home the award was Tyrone Holmes in 2015, and Kroy Bierman before him in 2007.
Montana quarterbacks coach Andrew Selle, himself a former Griz signal caller, credits Jensen’s poise under pressure, leading UM to a 4-3 record as a starter after being thrust into action to cover for injured senior Reese Phillips.
“It’s obviously a great honor for Gresch, and he absolutely deserves it,” said Selle. “I think it’s a huge testament to the guys around him too. The way they rallied around him, the supporting cast he has up front, our H’s blocking, everyone. I really think it’s a testament to our offense as a whole and Gresch is kind of the face of that being the quarterback, so it’s a great honor.
The voting panel for both awards consists of over 150 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries. Voting is based on the regular season.
2017 STATS FCS AWARDS
WALTER PAYTON AWARD FINALISTS
(FCS Offensive Player of the Year)
Dominick Bragalone, RB, Jr. – Lehigh; Jeremiah Briscoe, QB, Sr. – Sam Houston State; Chandler Burks, QB, Jr. – Kennesaw State; Taryn Christion, QB, Jr. – South Dakota State; Case Cookus, QB, So. – Northern Arizona; Keelan Doss, WR, Jr. – UC Davis; Dallas Goedert, TE, Sr. – South Dakota State; Gage Gubrud, QB, Jr. – Eastern Washington; Hayden Hildebrand, QB, Sr. – Central Arkansas; Devlin Hodges, QB, Jr. – Samford; Chad Kanoff, QB, Sr. – Princeton; DeVante Kincade, QB, Sr. – Grambling State; Kyle Lauletta, QB, Sr. – Richmond; Anthony Lawrence, QB, Jr. – San Diego; Josh Mack, RB, So. – Maine; Detrez Newsome, RB, Sr. – Western Carolina; Neil O’Connor, WR, Jr. – New Hampshire; Brandon Parker, OT, Sr. – North Carolina A&T; Troy Pelletier, WR, Sr. – Lehigh; Lamar Raynard, QB, Jr. – North Carolina A&T; Bryan Schor, QB, Sr. – James Madison; Chris Streveler, QB, Sr. – South Dakota, QB; Tommy Stuart, QB, Grad – Duquesne; Roc Thomas, RB, Sr. – Jacksonville State; Justin Watson, WR, Sr. – Penn
BUCK BUCHANAN AWARD FINALISTS
(FCS Defensive Player of the Year)
Andrew Ankrah, DE, Sr. – James Madison; Mike Basile, SS, Sr. – Monmouth; Marlon Bridges, FS, So. – Jacksonville State; Brandon Bryant, LB, Sr. – Lafayette; Josh Buss, LB, Jr. – Montana; De’Arius Christmas, LB, Jr. – Grambling State; Nick DeLuca, LB, Sr. – North Dakota State; Garrett Dolan, LB, Sr. – Houston Baptist; Malik Duncan, CB, Sr. – Saint Francis; Anthony Ellis, DE, Sr. – Charleston Southern; Jared Farley, LB, Sr. – Northern Iowa; Ahmad Gooden, DE, Jr. – Samford; P.J. Hall, DL, Sr. – Sam Houston State; Davontae Harris, CB, Sr. – Illinois State; Darius Jackson, DE, Sr. – Jacksonville State; Mario Jenkins, LB, Sr. – Idaho State; Darius Leonard, LB, Sr. – South Carolina State; Warren Messer, LB, Jr. – Elon; Matthew Oplinger, OLB, Sr. – Yale; Jonathan Peterson, DE, Sr. – San Diego; Christian Rozeboom, LB, So. – South Dakota State; Tremon Smith, CB, Sr. – Central Arkansas; Brett Taylor, LB, Sr. – Western Illinois; Sione Teuhema, LB, Sr. – Southeastern Louisiana; Jaison Williams, DE, So. – Austin Peay
JERRY RICE AWARD FINALISTS
(FCS Freshman Player of the Year)
Troy Anderson, RB/LB – Montana State; Bryson Armstrong, LB – Kennesaw State; Grant Breneman, QB – Colgate; Davis Cheek, QB – Elon; Jabril Cox, LB – North Dakota State; Kierre Crossley, RB – Central Arkansas; Glenn Cunningham, LB – Fordham; Zane Dudek, RB – Yale; Wesley Dugger, RB – Davidson; Reynard Ellis, LB – Furman; Jaron Grayer, LB – Maine; Pete Guerriero, RB – Monmouth; Gresch Jensen, QB – Montana; Anthony Knighton, DE – Southern Illinois; Torrance Marable, RB – Presbyterian; Franklin “Mac” McCain III, CB – North Carolina A&T; Caylin Newton, QB – Howard; Kaelan Riley, QB – Mercer, QB; Vincent Sellers, S – Tennessee State; Daniel Smith, QB – Campbell
EDDIE ROBINSON AWARD FINALISTS
(FCS Coach of the Year)
Mike Ayers, Wofford; Al Bagnoli, Columbia; Brian Bohannon, Kennesaw State; Rod Broadway, North Carolina A&T; Kevin Callahan, Monmouth; Dave Cecchini, Valparaiso; Curt Cignetti, Elon; Charlie Fisher, Western Illinois; John Grass, Jacksonville State; Will Healy, Austin Peay; Mike Houston, James Madison; Dan Hunt, Colgate; Chris Klieman, North Dakota State; Mike London, Howard; Fred McNair, Alcorn State; Tim Rebowe, Nicholls; Pete Rossomando, Central Connecticut State; Demario Warren, Southern Utah