MISSOULA — Playing a key role in one of the wildest game winning plays in Montana history will certainly get you some attention.
Montana corner back J.R. Nelson has been named this week’s ROOT Sports Big Sky Conference defensive Player of the Week after playing a key role in Montana’s thrilling 33-27 defeat of Idaho State in Pocatello on Saturday.
Nelson, a 6-2, 177 pound junior from Hacienda Heights, California chased down a bad snap on the final play of the game, scooped up the loose ball and made a lateral pass off the deck to Eric Johnson, who ran in to the end zone to seal the victory for the Grizzlies.
It was the first blocked field goal returned for a touchdown by the Griz since Jimmy Wilson returned one for 67 yards in 2005 against Northern Arizona.
In addition to his overtime heroics, Nelson had Montana’s only pick-six of the season, intercepting a pass that deflected off the hands of a Bengal receiver, and returning it 20 yards to the house, putting Montana up 21-7 early in the second quarter.
Nelson also had four solo tackles, and generally made life difficult for ISU QB Tanner Gueller all afternoon.
Nelson is now Montana’s ninth leading tackler this season with 35 total take downs, he also has five pass deflections, and four pass breakups.
Nelson’s selection is Montana’s fourth Big Sky Player of the Week award so far this season, which ties the Grizzlies as the second most recognized team, alongside Eastern Washington and Portland State, and behind Northern Arizona and Weber State who have five POW awards
Montana quarterback Makena Simis was nominated for offensive Player of the Week on Sunday after being the first Grizzly to break the 100 yard rushing barrier on Saturday, and Eric Johnson was nominated as special teams Player of the Week for being on the receiving end of Nelson’s pop-pass that led to the game winning touchdown.
In another wild week of FCS football, the national polls changed dramatically, but the Griz remained steady at No. 22 in both the STATS FCS media poll and the NCAA FCS Coaches’ poll.
The 5-4 Griz picked up 621 points in the STATS FCS poll, and 83 points in the Coaches’ poll.
Montana is the fourth of five Big Sky Conference schools in the NCAA FCS Coaches’ poll, with EWU at 10, Southern Utah at 15, Portland State at 16, and Northern Arizona at 25.
The Griz return to action this coming Saturday when Montana prepares to host one of its fiercest rivals, the Eastern Washington Eagles. Kickoff against EWU is set for 1:30 p.m. at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
— Montana Sports Information