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Montana football lands 6 players on All-Big Sky 1st team; Justin Ford earns Newcomer of the Year

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Posted at 11:43 AM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-23 14:22:12-05

MISSOULA — The postseason accolades for Big Sky Conference football teams was released on Tuesday morning and the Montana Grizzlies had six players named to the All-Big Sky first team.

Three players earned the honor on defense and another three earned it on special teams. Linebacker Patrick O'Connell, cornerback Justin Ford and safety Robby Hauck were all named to the first team while punter Brian Buschini, kick returner Malik Flowers and specialist Trevin Gradney also made the team.

Ford was also named the Newcomer of the Year for the conference.

O'Connell leads the Big Sky in sacks with 13 on the year which ranks third in the FCS. The Kalispell Glacier grad has 91 total tackles this season, 19.5 for loss, and has forced three fumbles and recovered one which he took back for a score against Northern Arizona.

Ford, who transferred to Montana from Louisville, leads the FCS with eight interceptions, one of which he took back for a score. He also has 33 total tackles, eight pass breakups, one sack, one forced fumble and two fumbles recovered, one of which he took back for a touchdown.

Hauck has racked up 107 total tackles this year, 4.5 for loss, and has one sack and one forced fumble.

Buschini, a Helena Capital grad, finished as the No. 1 punter in the FCS this year with a total of 56 punts that had an FCS-leading average of 46.70 yards per punt. Buschini has had 23 punts go over 50 yards and has had 22 attempts land inside the 20.

Flowers returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2021 on just 11 attempts. He returned kickoffs for scores against Cal Poly and Eastern Washington before teams began to stop kicking his way. He currently has five kick returns for a touchdown in his career.

Gradney, a Billings West grad, was a key member on special teams coverage and finished with five tackles, one for loss.

Defensive tackle Alex Gubner, left tackle Conlan Beaver and linebacker Jace Lewis were all named to the second team. Left guard Hunter Mayginnes was named to the third team while receiver Mitch Roberts, tight end Cole Grossman, and defensive ends Joe Babros and Justin Belknap were all honorable mentions.