100117-mis-spt-griz-portland-02 (copy)

Montana safety Justin Strong intercepts a Portland State pass in the fourth quarter before running the ball back for a touchdown on Saturday.

TOM BAUER, Missoulian

MISSOULA — Montana safety Justin Strong dominated on defense against Portland State on Saturday. 

With a hat trick of interceptions with one interception returned for a touchdown, Strong solidified his spot as the FCS, STATS FCS and Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week.

His three interceptions were returned for 116 yards. He had a fourth takeaway on the day as well, coming on a Portland State two-point conversion attempt. 

The feat has been hailed incredibly impressive, since Strong is wearing a cast on his left hand to protect his thumb.

“J. Strong gets four picks with one hand? We’re looking forward to him getting the club off and maybe he’ll have eight (interceptions) in a game with two hands," Montana coach Bob Stitt said on Saturday.

The awards were the first weekly accolades won by the Oregon State transfer. 

The last time a Montana player won a STATS FCS Player of the Week award came last season.

Jerry Louie-McGee earned National Freshman Player of the Week honors after he broke the school record and tied the Big Sky record for receptions in a game with 21. Louie-McGee also had 155 yards receiving, two receiving touchdowns and 114 kick return yards against Cal Poly.

Strong is the first Montana player to earn a conference player of the week award since Nov. 7, 2016 when then-Montana quarterback Chad Chalich earned the honor. Chalich completed 21 of 27 passes for 388 yards with a school-record seven touchdowns against Idaho State.

The last time a Montana defensive player earned the weekly league award was Oct. 17, 2016 when linebacker Josh Buss took home the accolade. Buss had 10 total tackles with 4 ½ tackles for loss and a sack in Montana’s 68-7 win over Sacramento State.

Amie Just covers Griz football for the Missoulian, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at Amie.Just@406mtsports.com.

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