BOZEMAN — Troy Andersen has added another accolade to his storied Montana State football career.
Andersen is the 2021 Big Sky defensive player of the year, the Big Sky announced Tuesday. The senior from Dillon is the eighth Bobcat to win the award and the first since defensive end Brad Daly in 2013.
“His impact over his time here has been all over the place. It’s been on offense, it’s been on defense, it’s been on special teams, but this year what we tasked him with is playing a new position in a new space and he took it and ran with it," said MSU first-year head coach Brent Vigen, via MSU Athletics. "The way he attacked it with no spring ball, through the summer and into fall camp he was learning on the fly, and what we saw was a real progression on Saturdays of him getting better and better. I’m sure he’d be the first to say that he’s got some room to grow still, but he attacked every opportunity he had to play as well as he could.”
Andersen finished the regular season with 111 tackles (57 solo), 9 ½ tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, seven pass breakups and a fumble recovery. He returned one of his INTs, on Sept. 18 against San Diego, for a touchdown.
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“I think a lot of people see his great ability as a football player and think it is God-given,” said MSU linebackers coach Bobby Daly, Brad's brother and a first-team all-American and all-Big Sky linebacker with the Cats in 2007. “What people don’t see is the work ethic. He is a very diligent, smart, hard-working individual who is willing to put in the time to get results on the field. He is his toughest critic. He doesn’t care about the big plays that he makes, he comes in and watches film and focuses on the mistakes he made within the game. That’s the common quality among all those guys. They expect the big plays, but the mistakes eat at them. They want to improve every day. Troy fits that mold.”
Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere earned Big Sky offensive player of the year honors, Northern Arizona QB RJ Martinez received the freshman of the year award and Montana defensive back Justin Ford, a Louisville transfer, was named the newcomer of the year.
Andersen also played linebacker in 2017 as a freshman and in 2019, although he appeared on offense a heavy amount in both seasons.
He rushed for 515 yards and five TDs on 90 carries (5.72 yards per carry) at running back in 2017, including 64 yards and two TDs on 10 carries in a 31-23 win over rival Montana. He also caught five passes for 46 yards and one score (a 43-yard TD against Idaho State) and had nine tackles and a sack that season. He was named the Big Sky freshman of the year.
Andersen switched to quarterback in 2018 and received first-team All-Big Sky and third-team All-America honors. He set MSU single-season records for rushing touchdowns (21), yards per carry (6.85), 100-yard rushing games (nine), consecutive 100-yard rushing games (six) and points (128). He helped the Cats overcome a 22-point deficit and earn a 29-25 win at Montana in that season's Brawl of the Wild. Andersen finished the season with 1,412 rushing yards (third-most in program history), and he passed for 1,195 yards with three TDs, seven INTs and a 55.3% completion rate. He also had a 32-yard catch.
Andersen primarily played linebacker in 2019 and made the All-America and All-Big Sky first teams despite missing the final three games with a knee injury that required surgery. He tallied 54 tackles (39 solo), 11 1/2 tackles for loss, 6 1/2 sacks, one INT and five PBUs. On offense, he rushed for 336 yards and seven TDs on 49 carries (6.86 ypc) and completed both of his passes for five yards.
Andersen lined up twice in the backfield in Saturday's 29-10 loss at Montana. Otherwise, he spent the entire season on defense.
"He plays really hard, really smart. He’s the center of the defense, so he makes all the checks for us. He’s definitely our team’s most valuable player in terms of the defense," said MSU first-year defensive coordinator Freddie Banks. "I think (the position change) was easy for him because he played quarterback, so the transition wasn’t very hard. And he’s a leader by nature. I think he might have been born with that trait.”
The No. 7-ranked Cats (9-2, 7-1 Big Sky) received the eighth seed and a first-round bye in the FCS playoffs. They will host either No. 12 Missouri State or No. 16 UT Martin at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4.