Even though one plays for the team Griz Nation loves to cheer against, it's pretty cool that two of the three players nominated are from the state of Montana.

University of Montana Sports Information Director Eric Taber reports today (Wednesday) that Grizzly junior linebacker Patrick O'Connell, from Kalispell, is one of the top-three finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award, presented annually to the subdivision's Defensive Player of the Year. This year's FCS Awards Banquet will be held in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 7, the eve of the FCS National Championship game.

The other two finalists are Montana State's Troy Andersen (Dillon) and Florida A&M's Isaiah Land.

With a Big Sky Conference-best 13 sacks and a top-15 FCS total in three different defensive categories, O'Connell has been nearly unstoppable, wreaking havoc in opposing backfields and helping Montana build the third-best rush defense in the nation. His 20.5 tackles-for-loss are the second-most in the Big Sky and the fifth-most in the FCS, and his forced fumble total of four is a top-15 total in the FCS as well. The Glacier High product has also posted 99 total tackles this season, recovered a fumble for a touchdown, and tallied six QB hurries.

While the exact order remains a secret, the three players who have gathered the most votes are the ones invited to the ceremony. In the oh-so-close category, Montana almost got another finalist in there.

Grizzly junior cornerback Justin Ford, who has more interceptions this season than any other player in all levels of college football, narrowly missed out on a trip to Frisco, finishing fourth in the voting, giving the Grizzlies two of the top-five defensive players in FCS football.

Congratulations on a great season (so far) to the entire Grizzly team, and all the best to Patrick O'Connell at the awards presentation.

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