As if preparing for what could be their last game of the season wasn’t already a daunting task, Montana State and Sam Houston State both have players preparing for and taking final exams this week.

Though the academic calendars for both schools show finals week doesn’t officially begin until Dec. 10th, both teams have players with finals, projects and papers due this week.

Montana State linebacker Jody Owens was less than enthused about having to pull double duty this week.

“Wow, I don’t even want to start to go into that,” Owens said. “It’s a whole different mission; I have a lot going on.”

Both head coaches — Rob Ash at Montana State and Willie Fritz with Sam Houston State — have said professors at both schools have been very accommodating in helping players with their scholastic demands in the lead up to what is the most important game of the year for both teams.

“Luckily, we have a very understanding administration and faculty,” Fritz said. “We sent a letter out to all the faculty and professors because we are going to be missing school Thursday and Friday. Everyone has been very accommodating. I told the guys, bring your books with you because we have a plane trip and some down time at the hotel so you better study as well as prepare for the game.”

“They’ve (professors) been very cooperative. We’ve had guys take tests on the road during the season,” Ash added. “This week, Friday is going to be the most challenging day. There’s a lot of projects and finals and tests that are gonna be on that day. But being a competition day, our guys are allowed to work with professors to get alternative times set up. From what I understand so far, it’s been good.”

Despite the accommodations, the time is a tough one for players balancing preparations for a team they are somewhat familiar with — Sam Houston State beat Montana State in last year’s quarterfinals 49-13 in Huntsville, Texas — and academics they have been studying since late August.

“One good thing is we’ve known, probably since the middle of the semester, that we had a pretty good chance to be in the playoffs,” Ash said. “We’ve talked to them throughout the semester about staying on top of things, not procrastinating, not leaving things toward the end of the season in case we were playing. I think a lot of them have done that.”

Owens and everybody else in the Bobcats’ program was quick to point out that they are excited for the challenge, because of the shear fact of having to pull double duty this week means Montana State is still playing football.

“It’s what you sign up for,” Owens said. “I’d rather have a lot going on than be at home sitting on the couch looking at other teams play. I love the situation we’re in and we’re just gonna fight through it as a team. Everybody has finals due and we’ll be alright at the end of the day.”

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As was the typical case during the regular season, Tuesday was an awards day for the Bobcats.

Senior linebacker Jody Owens and junior quarterback DeNarius McGhee were named first team All-Americans by the American Football Coaches Association.

With the selection, Owens and McGhee became the tenth and eleventh players in the school’s history to be named to the prestigious All-America team.

“I’m excited. I’m happy, it’s a definite honor and a testament of hard work paying off,” Owens said. “But at the same time, like I said before, I play on a great defense. The guys that I play with, I feel like Zach Minter could be on that list; Caleb Schreibeis, Darius Jones, like our whole defense as a whole could be on that list. I’m just honored that they picked me, I don’t think I did anything special to deserve it.”

Owens, also a unanimous first team All-Big Sky selection and conference Defensive MVP, led the Bobcats in tackles this season with 82 tackles this season. The senior from Mesquite, Texas also had 11 tackles for loss and three sacks. Owens also serves as a team captain and is part of the winningest senior class in Montana State history.

McGhee, who was also a first team All-Big selection and was named the conference’s offensive MVP for the second time in his career, finished the regular season with 2,726 yards and 22 touchdowns while completing nearly 68 percent of his passes. McGhee is the school’s all-time leader in touchdowns thrown and wins for a quarterback.

The AFCA has been selecting college All-America teams since 1945.

CAT TRACKS: Coach Rob Ash said he expected running back Cody Kirk to play on Friday night. Ash said that Kirk had not practiced Monday or Tuesday, but “has been working hard.” Kirk hurt his knee during the Bobcats’ 16-10 second-round victory over Stony Brook last Saturday. Despite rampant speculation as to what the injury was, nothing has been made official.

Kyle Sample can be reached at ksample@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2690. He is on Twitter @kylesample_bdc

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