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BIG SKY FOOTBALL KICKOFF: Montana tabbed Big Sky football preseason favorites by coaches and media

| July 26, 2022 1:25 AM

Montana, which went 10-3 last year and reached the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs, were picked as Big Sky Conference football preseason favorites by the league’s head coaches and media.

Defending Big Sky champion Sacramento State was selected second by the coaches, while 2021 national runner-up Montana State was tabbed second by the media. The two reversed spots for third place in both polls.

The Hornets claimed the Big Sky Conference trophy last season outright, finishing the year 8-0 in league play with marquee victories over Montana and UC Davis.

Montana State finished the 2021 season 12-3, charging to the FCS National Championship Game with victories over UT Martin, Sam Houston and South Dakota State.

Eastern Washington was picked to finish sixth by the coaches and media.

Idaho was picked to finish eighth in the 12-team conference by the coaches, ninth by the media.


1, Montana (3 first-place votes), 111 points. 2, Sacramento State (4), 110. 3, Montana State (5), 109. 4, Weber State, 84. 5, UC Davis, 82. 6, Eastern Washington, 76. 7, Northern Arizona, 62. 8, Idaho, 45. 9, Portland State, 42. 10, Cal Poly, 33. 11 (tie), Idaho State, Northern Colorado 19.


1, Montana (14 first-place votes), 356 points. 2, Montana State (13), 352. 3, Sacramento State (4), 335. 4, Weber State, 261. 5, UC Davis (1), 255. 6, Eastern Washington, 236. 7, Northern Arizona 181. 8, Portland State, 146. 9, Idaho, 142. 10, Cal Poly 85. 11, Northern Colorado, 71. 12, Idaho State, 66.

Idaho linebacker Fa’Avae named to Big Sky preseason all-conference team

The Big Sky Conference preseason MVPs and preseason all-conference team was announced Monday. The preseason MVPs are running back Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. from UC Davis and linebacker Patrick O’Connell from Montana.

Gilliam Jr. rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and six touchdowns last season. He also caught 43 passes for 278 yards and one score. The Aggie was also a first team all-Big Sky running back.

O’Connell was one of three finalists for the 2021 Buck Buchanan Award, honoring the best defensive player in FCS Football. Then a redshirt junior, O’Connell was also a first team All-American and All-Big Sky linebacker. On top of all the awards, O’Connell also finished last season as the Big Sky’s sack leader.

Idaho linebacker Fa’Avae Fa’Avae was also named to the preseason all-conference team.


Offensive MVP — Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. (UC Davis)

Defensive MVP — Patrick O'Connell (Montana)

QB — Tommy Mellott (Montana State)

RB — Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. (UC Davis), Isaiah Ifanse (Montana State)

FB — R.J. Fitzgerald (Montana State)

TE — Marshel Martin (Sacramento State)

WR — Beau Kelly (Portland State), Efton Chism III (EWU), Pierre Williams (Sacramento State)

C — Connor Pettek (UC Davis)

OG — Jake Parks (UC Davis), Brandon Weldon (Sacramento State)

OT — Noah Atagi (Weber State), Jonas Leader (NAU)

DT — Alex Gubner (Montana), Joshua Jerome (EWU)

DE — VJ Malo (Portland State), Brody Grebe (Montana State)

OLB — Patrick O'Connell (Montana), David Hoage (Northern Colorado)

ILB — Callahan O'Reilly (Montana State), Fa’Avae Fa’Avae (Idaho)

CB — Justin Ford (Montana), Anthony Adams (Portland State)

S — Robby Hauck (Montana), Morgan Vest (NAU)

AP — Asher O’Hara (Sacramento State)

RS — Malik Flowers (Montana)

K — Kyle Sentkowski (Sacramento State)

P — Bryce Leighton (Montana State)

LS — Tommy Sullivan (Montana State)

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