MISSOULA — Montana (9-3) will play in its first postseason game since 2015 when it hosts Southeastern Louisiana (8-4) at 1 p.m. MT Saturday in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
The following are key Lions players to keep an eye on during the game, which will be streamed on ESPN3.
Quarterback: Chason Virgil, No. 9
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior quarterback from Mesquite, Texas, is the main signal caller in the two-QB system. Virgil is in his second season as the Lions’ starter after starting 14 games at FBS Fresno State. He’s completed 66.1% of his passes (275 of 416) for 3,355 yards with 21 TDs and 11 INTs this year to earn third-team All-Southland honors. Virgil has run only 38 times for 80 yards and one score. He’s backed up by 6-foot-7, 260-pound junior Cole Kelley, who started six games at FBS Arkansas. Kelley ranks second on SELA with 87 runs for 204 yards and a team-high 10 TDs. He’s completed 73.3% of his passes (66 of 90) for 785 yards with 10 TDs, two INTs.
Running back: Devonte Williams, No. 1
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior running back from Columbia, Maryland, is the do-everything player for Southeastern Louisiana. Williams earned third-team All-Southland accolades as both a running back and a punt returner in his second year with the Lions after playing in 26 games at FBS Indiana. He’s run 125 times for 565 yards, an average of 4.5 per rush and 51.4 per game, to go with eight TDs. Williams is second on the team with 58 catches for 544 yards, an average of 9.4 per catch and 49.5 per game, and three scores. He’s backed up by 5-foot-10, 205-pound sophomore Taron Jones, who’s rushed 74 times for 345 yards, 28.8 per game, with four TDs.
Wide receiver: Austin Mitchell, No. 81
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound junior wide receiver from Plaquemine, Louisiana, broke out one year after a season of injuries. Mitchell earned third-team All-Southland honors, leading the team with 837 receiving yards, 69.8 receiving yards per game and eight TD catches. He averaged 16.1 yards per reception on 52 catches. Mitchell is one of five Lions with over 500 receiving yards. CJ Turner, a 6-2, 180-pound wideout, had a team-best 69 catches for 815 yards, six TDs. Bransen Schwebel, a 6-5, 245-pound tight end, had 48 catches for 586 yards, three TDs to get second-team All-Southland honors. Wide receiver Javon Conner recorded 48 catches for 524 yards, five TDs.
Offensive line: Pat Allen, No. 52
You have free articles remaining.
The 6-foot-4, 290-pound senior left tackle from Reisertown, Maryland, has started all 23 games for the Lions since joining them prior to the 2018 season after beginning at FBS Georgia, where he played in eight games and made one start. Allen was the team’s lone offensive player to get first-team All-Southland honors this season. He’s part of an O-line that’s started the same group in 11 of 12 games. Those five have combined for 88 career starts for the Lions and average 298 pounds. They’ve helped SELA rank fourth in the FCS in total offense (484.5 yards) and second in pass offense (345 yards). Senior left guard Jarius Gooch was named second-team All-Southland.
Defensive line: Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, No. 91
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior defensive end from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, has regularly set up camp in the opposition’s backfield, helping him to be selected second-team All-Southland. Adeyemi-Berglund leads the team with 16 TFLs, which would rank fourth in the Big Sky, to go with a 7.5 sacks and three QB hurries, both of which are tops on the Lions. He filled up the stat sheet with three forced fumbles, one recovery and three pass breakups. Fellow defensive end Josh Carr Jr. is second on the team with 14.5 TFLs and six sacks to go with eight PBUs, a team high, and one fumble recovery. Defensive tackle Ronald Cherry III has 11.5 TFLs and 5.5 sacks.
Linebacker: Alexis Ramos, No. 30
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior linebacker from Salinas, California, is the team’s leading tackler in his first year in the two-linebacker system. Ramos has amassed 74 tackles, 12 more than the closest Lion, being named second-team All-Southland. His 10 TFLs are fourth most on the team, while his six sacks are tied for second most. Ramos has tacked on two QB hurries, one forced fumble and one pass breakup. Fellow starting linebacker Trae Drake is a 5-10, 225-pound junior who spent the past two seasons at FBS Alabama but never played. He’s started the past eight games for the Lions, tallying 55 total tackles, one forced fumble, one QB hurry and two PBUs.
Secondary: Xavier Lewis, No. 7
The 6-foot, 200-pound senior defensive back from LaPlace, Louisiana, has become a disruptive defender, earning second-team All-Southland honors in his second season with the team after playing in 15 games at LSU. Lewis ranks third on the team with 59 tackles, while his 8.5 TFLs and three sacks are tops in the secondary. He also has five INTs and two forced fumbles. Cornerback Ferlando Jordan earned first-team all-league honors with five INTs and three pick-6s, but he’s dealing with an injury and his status is unknown. Cornerback Shawntrez Spates has three INTs. Safeties Donniel Ward-Magee and Tre’ Spann each have two INTs. Spann has 62 total tackles.
Special teams: Bryce Broussard, No. 29
The 5-foot-9, 150-pound sophomore kicker from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been rarely used in the kicking game because the Lions tend to go for it on fourth downs. Broussard has just nine attempted field goals and has made seven of them after transferring from Nicholls. His FG in the first round of the playoffs was just the second attempt in the past five games. Should the game come down to kicking, Broussard hasn’t been too tested. In the return game, Devonte Williams has a 61-yard punt return TD and is averaging 14 yards on nine returns. Austin Mitchell leads the kick returners with 320 yards, while Juwan Petit-Frere averages 24.9 yards per return.