In a pulsating clash at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, the Montana Grizzlies etched their names in history, overcoming the North Dakota State Bison in a double-overtime spectacle to earn a coveted spot in the FCS national championship game. The heart-stopping 31-29 victory not only marked the end of the season at home, as symbolized by the iconic takedown of goalposts, but also propelled the Grizzlies into a fierce showdown with the reigning champion South Dakota State Jackrabbits in Frisco, Texas, on Sunday, January 7, at Toyota Stadium.
The dramatic game against the NDSU Bison unfolded as a testament to the resilience and unyielding spirit of the Montana Grizzlies. Despite the burden of back-to-back overtime encounters, the team emerged victorious, weaving a narrative of triumph amidst the stress and challenges. The exhilarating moments that unfolded on the field became indelible chapters in the annals of Grizzly lore.
One such standout moment occurred in the fourth quarter when Junior Bergen, riding high from a stellar week of kick and punt returns, electrified the crowd with his fifth career punt return score. This pivotal play not only gave the Grizzlies the lead but also served as a catalyst for the joyous celebrations that followed.
In the wake of the intense overtime battles, Head Coach Bobby Hauck humorously remarked, “It’s an act. I am not relaxed. Not at all… It’s hard. We want to win by 50 in regulation. So anyway, I am having a blast.” The sentiment of relief and excitement resonated throughout the team, with junior receiver Keelan White emphasizing the profound unity within the squad and the privilege of playing for each other.
The saga continued with Junior Bergen’s heroics in the first and second overtime, securing two crucial scores and a spectacular 2-point conversion that ultimately sealed the Grizzlies’ fate. Even amidst adversity, Bergen’s unwavering trust in the team’s abilities proved instrumental. Reflecting on these pivotal plays, he stated, “You know, just leaving your mark on games like these… We just wanted to take it upon ourselves to potentially make plays in that game as well. Fortunately, that’s what we did.”
As the Grizzlies now prepare to face the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, the excitement among players, coaches, and fans is palpable. Head Coach Hauck encapsulated the thrill, expressing, “It’s exciting. I mean, golly, everybody’s pretty excited… Grizzly football brings a lot of joy and happiness to a lot of people in Montana and in our alumni base. Grizzly football is special, and that was a special game.”
Senior linebacker Braxton Hill echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the profound bond within the team: “It means everything… We just soak it up, and you know, I just don’t want it to end. So that’s why we play so hard. We play hard for one another, and it’s special, and I’m just so glad that we have another couple of weeks together.”
As the anticipation builds for the championship clash, the Grizzlies and their dedicated fans eagerly await the chance to make history and add another glorious chapter to the legacy of Montana football. The stage is set for a battle of titans, and the Grizzlies are poised to seize the moment and stake their claim to the national championship.
By: Big Sky Headlines staff