Week one in the Big Sky was filled with a pair of wins over FBS opponents and seven victories overall, as the ROOT SPORTS Players of the Week were announced today by the league office. This week’s honors went to UC Davis’ Ulonzo Gilliam for the ROOT SPORTS Offensive Player of the Week, Montana’s Dante Olson for ROOT SPORTS Defensive Player of the Week, and Montana State’s Tristan Bailey for the ROOT SPORTS Special Teams Player of the Week. It is the first player of the week honor for all three players.
Gilliam, a redshirt freshman, rushed for 132 yards in UC Davis’ 44-38 upset win over FBS opponent San Jose State. He scored on a five-yard run with 11:58 on the clock in the first quarter to give the Aggies a 7-0 lead. Gilliam’s one-yard touchdown tied the game at 14-All late in the first quarter. He added an 18-yard receiving touchdown to start the fourth quarter to extend UCD’s lead to 44-31. Gilliam was responsible for 18 of his team’s 44 points to lift UC Davis to the six-point victory – UCD’s third win over a FBS team in the program’s history. Including his 59 receiving yards, Gilliam racked up 191 all-purpose yards against the Spartans.
Montana’s Olson was dominant on defense for the Griz. The linebacker made his first start on Saturday, as Montana defeated No. 13 Northern Iowa, 26-23. The junior tallied a game-high 13 tackles – tied for 10th in the FCS so far this season and the most in the Big Sky. Olson also registered a 26-yard interception when he picked off the UNI quarterback. Olson added a sack for a loss of nine yards, a pass breakup and quarterback hurry to round out his day and lift the Griz to a victory and a Big Sky-Missouri Valley Football Challenge Series win.
Bailey, a transfer, shined in his debut for the Bobcats as he accounted for more than half of Montana State’s points in a 26-23 win over Western Illinois. Bailey opened the scoring for MSU with a 21-yard field goal late in the first quarter, and closed the first half with a 47-yard field goal as time expired. He nailed a 50-yard field goal with 8:26 remaining to tie the game 23-23 and added a 35-yard kick to give the Bobcats the final margin of victory. He added two PATs to go 6-for-6 kicking on the night. He also produced touchbacks on three of his six kickoffs, and on two of the other three pinned WIU inside the 25-yard line. Bailey’s 50-yard field goal was the longest ever by a Bobcat making his MSU debut, and the first since 2015 to hit a 50-yarder. He became the first Bobcat since 2011 to kick four field goals in a game.
Other Nominees for ROOT SPORTS Offensive Player of the Week: Emmanuel Butler, NAU; Keenan Curran, UM; Gage Gubrud, EWU; Andre Lindsey, SAC; James Madison, ISU; Ty Rutledge, SUU; Charlie Taumoepeau, PSU; Alex Wesley, UNC.
Other Nominees for ROOT SPORTS Defensive Player of the Week: Caelan Barnes, SAC; Sherand Boyd, UNC; Ketner Kupp, EWU; Paea Moala, ISU; Ryan Parenteau, UCD; Bryce Sterk, MSU; Landon Stice, WSU; Wes Sutton, NAU; Taelin Webb, SUU.
Other Nominees for ROOT SPORTS Special Teams Player of the Week: DJ Arnson, NAU; Roldan Alcobendas, EWU; Devon Medeiros, SAC; Tim Semenza, UM; Cody Williams, PSU.
The first ROOT SPORTS Game of the Week will be on Sept. 22 when Montana hosts Sacramento State at 1 p.m. MT in Missoula.