The Big Sky Conference cleaned up at the STATS FCS awards banquet in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 10, winning two of the five trophies handed out that evening.
Montana linebacker Dante Olson took home the Buck Buchanan Award for the subdivision’s defensive player of the year, while Sacramento State head coach Troy Taylor won the Eddie Robinson Award, given annually to the subdivision’s coach of the year.
Olson was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan a year ago, finishing third in the final vote after recording 151 tackles in 11 games.
He broke through in his senior season by putting up even better stats, finishing with a program- and conference-record 179 tackles in 14 games, 29 more than anyone else in the FCS.
He added 3 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Taylor was announced as the winner of the Eddie Robinson on Dec. 12, but was officially recognized Friday at the banquet.
He led the Hornets, who were picked to finish 12th in the conference’s preseason media poll, to a 9-4 overall record and several program firsts, including their first-ever Big Sky title (shared with Weber State) and first-ever FCS playoff appearance.
Sac State was seeded No. 4 heading into the playoffs, receiving a first-round bye, but lost 42-28 to Austin Peay in the second round.
The Big Sky nearly made it a clean sweep on the three major awards, but Northern Arizona senior quarterback Case Cookus finished second to North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance in the voting for the Walter Payton Award, given to the offensive player of the year.
Cookus, who threw for 4,114 yards and 31 touchdowns against seven interceptions, received 24 first-place votes and 276 points to Lance’s 42 and 353, respectively.
Big Sky quarterbacks took three of the top five spots in the voting for the Payton, with Sac State signalcaller Kevin Thomson tying Monmouth running back Pete Guerriero for third and EWU’s Eric Barriere finishing fifth.
Two other awards were also announced. Lance became the first player ever to win both the Payton and Jerry Rice Award, given to the top freshman in the FCS. UC Davis defensive end Nick Eaton, in seventh, was the Big Sky’s highest finisher in voting for the Rice.
Bucknell punter Alex Pechin won the Doris Robinson Award, given to the top scholar-athlete in the FCS.