The 2001 Montana champions believe Griz can go far in the playoffs

MISSOULA — After a blowout loss to Montana State, the Montana Grizzlies were firmly in the FCS playoff bubble.

But after collectively holding their breath, Montana fans breathed a sigh of relief when the Griz heard her name during Sunday’s selection show.

And the question changed from will Montana make the field – how far can they go?

As of Friday afternoon, Montana was favored in the first round by a touchdown against Southeast Missouri State. A win would mean a trip to Fargo to take on defending FCS champion North Dakota State. Despite winning nine of the last eleven FCS titles, the Bison lost two games this season and allowed a number of players to enter the transfer portal after the regular season.

So a deep run is a definite possibility for the Griz.

To learn more about their postseason prospects, we reach out to the last batch of guys to win a national championship at Montana, the 2001 Grizzly football team.

“Obviously (the 2022 team) is very lucky that they have another game to play because you could start on Monday and look at another team instead of the game they played in Bozeman last Saturday, a full year long to experience,” said former Griz quarterback John Edwards. “So they have an opportunity for redemption. It’s a great thing to have something to focus on and keep going. Hopefully that’s to their advantage because those are tough losses to take.”

The 2001 team would know about hard losses. Montana also advanced to the 2000 national championship game where they lost to Georgia Southern. late landing. They left the sting of defeat behind and won it all the next year. Something this year’s team will try to achieve in a much shorter time frame.

“It’s really hard to get a national championship game. So nothing was guaranteed and that was the end of the season (2000). So we’ve had a lot of time to think about it and work on it,” said former wide receiver TJ Oelkers. “Montana has six days this year to get ready and lick those wounds and play on Saturday.”

Even with four conference losses, members of the 2001 National Championship Team believe this year’s Griz has a legitimate shot at a deep postseason run.

“You made it to the playoffs and Montana has a puncher chance,” Oelkers said. “You know, I think they were third preseason. You have guys who were senior. They had a great run to start the year.”

“And they were there. They did. They won big games. They lost big games. But yeah, stay with yourself and stay in your bubble and get to work,” Edwards said. “And maybe the ball will start bouncing a little bit more in your direction and a little bit of luck can get you a little bit further.”

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