Montana–Montana State football rivalry
|First meeting||November 25, 1897; 120 years ago
|Latest meeting||November 19, 2016 in Missoula
Montana State, 24-17
|Next meeting||November 2017 in Bozeman|
|Trophy||The Great Divide Trophy|
|Meetings total||115 (one vacated: 2011)|
|All-time series||Montana leads 72–38–5 (.648); with both in NCAA Montana leads 32–27 (.542); with both in Big Sky Montana leads 30–23 (.566)|
|Largest victory||Montana, 79–0 (1904)|
|Longest win streak||Montana 16 (1986–2001)|
|Current win streak||Montana State 1 (2016–2016)|
The Montana–Montana State football rivalry is an annual college football rivalry game between the University of Montana Grizzlies and the Montana State University Bobcats. Also known as Cat-Griz, Griz-Cat and the Brawl of the Wild, the winner receives the Great Divide Trophy.
The rivalry began in 1897, making it the 31st oldest in NCAA Division I and the 11th oldest west of the Mississippi River, as well as the fourth-oldest Football Championship Subdivision rivalry and the oldest FCS rivalry west of the Mississippi. Montana leads the series 72–38–5, but that margin is considerably smaller since Montana State joined the NCAA in 1957 at 32–27. The game, especially of late, has major implications on the Big Sky Conference championship and its automatic bid to the Division I FCS tournament.
The rivalry began on November 26, 1897 when the two teams played in Bozeman, home of Montana State, with Montana prevailing by the score of 18–6. At the time, Montana State was known as Montana State College, while Montana was known as Montana State University. The rivalry is the 31st oldest among active rivalries in NCAA Division I and of those is the eleventh oldest west of the Mississippi River. It is also the fourth oldest active rivalry in the FCS and the oldest west of the Mississippi River.
The series has three distinct periods. From 1897 to 1916, Montana State did not belong to a conference, while Montana was in the Northwest Intercollegiate Athletic Association. In addition to Montana, the Northwest Conference included Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Idaho, and Whitman College. At times they would play twice per year. Early seasons had seven games or less with one season seeing the Grizzlies play just one game. Four of the five ties in the series came during this era. Montana won 12 games to Montana State's 7.
Montana State joined the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in 1917 and Montana joined the Pacific Coast Conference (today's Pac-12 Conference in 1924. The RMAC included several teams that later became Mountain West members. When MSU joined the RMAC included Colorado, Colorado State, Utah, Utah State, and Brigham Young. When UM joined the PCC included Stanford, California, UCLA, USC, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, and Idaho. The Bobcats remained in the RMAC, which dropped down to the NAIA in 1938, through 1956, while the Grizzlies remained in the PCC through 1949 and joined the Skyline (aka Mountain States) Conference,which included Colorado, Utah State, Denver, Utah, Colorado State, Brigham Young, New Mexico and Wyoming, from 1951–1961. MSU was independent from 1957–1962 and UM was independent in 1950 and 1962. During this period UM enjoyed a 30–8–1 edge in Cat-Griz games, while MSU won the NAIA national title in 1956.
Both schools entered the Big Sky Conference as charter members in 1963 with Montana holding a 43–15–2 series lead. Prior to that UM was in conferences with what are now FBS and BCS schools, while MSU was either not in a conference or in a NAIA conference, for all but 30 of the 59 games played. UM holds a 22–5–3 record in those games.
In the first 23 years in the Big Sky Conference, Montana State enjoyed its most successful period of the Cat-Griz rivalry with a 17–6 win-loss record and won two national titles. A new period began in 1986, often known in Montana as "The Streak," in which Montana won sixteen straight games in the series. A few of these games were close, but most of them gave a strong indication that the two football programs were going in very different directions. Montana won two NCAA Division I-AA championships during "The Streak", while Montana State had one season where it failed to win a single game. Montana State finally snapped "The Streak" in 2002, winning at Montana, and the post-Streak record stands at 8–6 in favor of Montana. The Big Sky era shows Montana with a 30–23 lead. Since both teams joined the NCAA in 1957, UM holds a 32–27 lead.
While UM holds a sizeable lead in the all-time series, Montana State has won more conference championships (20) and more national championships (3). UM has won 18 league titles and two national titles.
- Montana was penalized by the NCAA on July 26, 2013 and forced to vacate its last five wins of the 2011 season. One win was against Montana State.
Great Divide Trophy
The Great Divide Trophy was created in 2001 by Dave Samuelson. The trophy was made possible by numerous donations. The winner of each game will possess the trophy for one year. The school with the most wins at the end of the 21st century will hold the trophy forever.
Montana was the first school to receive the trophy following their victory in the 2001 game. Since then the trophy has since changed hands eight times. As of 2016, the trophy is in the possession of Montana State. Montana holds a 9–6 series lead since the trophy was introduced to the rivalry.
In 1968, in what is considered by many as the most exciting game in the Cat-Griz series, quarterback Dennis Erickson, flanker Ron Bain and running back Paul Schafer lead a monumental comeback as the Bobcats clinch a tie for the Big Sky championship—their third straight. Trailing 24–9 in the fourth quarter, Montana State scored 20 points in the last nine minutes and won 29–24 when Schafer, who had 58 carries for 234 yards in the game, dove into the end zone with 12 seconds left. The Grizzlies appeared to have the drive stopped at the MSU 32, but a facemask penalty gave the Cats new life on the 17.
In all, 34 points are scored in the final quarter. Bain's brother, Doug of the Grizzlies, gave the Montana a 17–9 lead early in the quarter on a pass from Ray Brum. After another UM touchdown made the score 24–9 with just over 10 minutes to go it looked as if the Grizzlies would win going away, but the Bobcats weren't done. Schaefer scored on a short run with 8:15 to play and Erickson hit Bain for a touchdown with five minutes left cutting the lead to two at 24–22.
After Schafer's touchdown, the Grizzlies nearly spoil things for MSU. UM takes over at the 20 with speedy receiver Ron Baines at quarterback. He gains 15 and another 15 are tacked on by an unnecessary roughness penalty. Baines then makes a circus run of 37 yards from midfield before he's dragged down at the MSU 13 after time expires.
In another exciting finish of the series, Montana State fights back from a 21–7 halftime deficit to take a 25–24 lead on a three-yard run by Eric Kinnamon with 22 seconds to play in Bobcat Stadium. The Bobcats appeared poised to snap an 11-game losing streak to the Grizzlies, but Montana wasn't done.
Thanks to a kickoff that sailed out of bounds Montana gets the ball on its own 35-yard line with no time expended off the clock. After an incomplete pass UM quarterback Brian Ah Yat finds receiver Justin Olsen for a completion of 46 yards to the MSU 19 with eight seconds to play. Ah Yat would recover his own muffed snap on the next play and after a UM timeout Kris Heppner kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired giving Montana the 27–25 win.
Just as the first half ended MSU was whistled for having too many men on the field giving UM one extra play and the Grizzlies made the Bobcats pay scoring a touchdown on the last play of the half. The Bobcats also misfired on special teams all day. Prior to kicking the ball out of bounds they failed on three conversion attempts.
Montana State would get its heart broken again – not as bad as in 1997 — a year later. Leading 21–20 and ahead for most of the second half, the Bobcats fall when Dallas Neil takes a pass from Brian Ah Yat and tightropes down the sideline for an 18-yard touchdown with just over five minutes to play. UM converts the two-point attempt and the Grizzlies win 28–21.
The game is played at a slippery Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula and extends the UM winning streak over MSU to 13.
The Bobcats would finally put an end to their losing streak at 16 games when true freshman quarterback Travis Lulay leads them to a 10–7 win in Missoula on a snowy, windy day. Lulay connected with Junior Adams for a 53-yard touchdown in the third quarter and, after a fumble led to Montana's lone score of the day, MSU's defense made it hold up.
The Bobcats held UM quarterback John Edwards to just 8-for-32 and 106 yards passing on the day. Edwards completed just one pass in the first half. MSU was led by senior running back Ryan Johnson, who ran for 132 yards, and cornerback Joey Thomas, who blocked a field goal and played a big role in Edwards' struggles.
The Grizzlies needed a win in their final regular season game to continue its string of 12 straight conference championships and 17 straight playoff appearances. The Bobcats needed a win to clinch the conference title and a seed in the playoffs. With the game being played in Missoula the Grizzlies appeared to have the advantage, but MSU scored touchdowns on its first three possessions and made them hold up for a 21–16 win with clutch defensive play in the second half.
UM advanced the ball inside the MSU 10-yard line twice in the second half, but the Bobcats forced fumbles, including one by star running back Chase Reynolds, both times. UM drove to the MSU 14 for a first and 10 with under two minutes to play, but MSU defensive end Dustin O'Connell came through for the Bobcats. O'Connell, who just returned from a severely broken collarbone, and linebacker Jody Owens dropped Reynolds for a one-yard loss on first down, O'Connell then hurried UM quarterback Justin Roper into throwing an incomplete pass on second down and batted down a pass intended for a wide open Kavario Middleton on third down. Roper threw the ball out of bounds on fourth down. UM would get one more chance moving the ball to the MSU 34, but the Bobcats sealed the win with an interception on the goal line by senior captain Michael Rider on the last play of the game.
Montana State entered the 111th clash as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation for the first time since 1985. The Grizzlies put an end to that in humiliating fashion with a 36–10 win in front of the largest crowd (20,247) to attend a Cat-Griz game in Bozeman.
A safety by UM cornerback Trumaine Johnson helped set up a short TD pass on a fourth-down pass late in the first half to give UM 12–0 lead. After Montana State scored quickly to start the second half, the Grizzlies answered on the next play with an 79-yard bomb from Jordan Johnson to Jabin Sambrano and UM cruised from there. Montana finished the game with 309 yards rushing.
On July 26, 2013, Montana vacated this win and four others from the 2011 season after an NCAA investigation found that the university had insufficiently monitored its football program, enabling boosters to provide gifts and services to players against NCAA regulations. The investigation determined that boosters had provided bail and free legal counsel to two players, cornerback Trumaine Johnson and backup quarterback Gerald Kemp, and that six boosters had provided smaller benefits to players over 100 times between 2004 and 2012. As part of the penalties, Montana voluntarily vacated five wins from the 2011 season, including the Montana State game.
Montana hadn't had a losing season since 1986, the year it moved into Washington-Grizzly Stadium, but that would all change as the Bobcats won 16–7 to take their second straight win and third in six tries in the toughest road venue in the FCS. The loss left the Grizzlies with a 5–6 overall mark and a 3–5 conference mark. They finished the year 3–3 at home, the first time they failed to finish above .500 at WGS.
After a first-quarter touchdown gave UM a 7–3 lead, MSU didn't allow another point and only gave up 192 yards in holding Montana to one of its lowest scoring outputs in stadium history. Kruiz Siewing from tiny Saco, Mont. scored MSU's only TD on a pass from DeNarius McGhee and Rory Perez kicked three field goals, including the game-clincher with 2:32 to play.
Montana State, which came into the game with a 3-7 record, went into Missoula and rushed for the most yards (368) by an opponent in Washington-Grizzly Stadium history as it knocked off Montana 24-17. The loss eliminated the Grizzlies, who finished the season 6-5, from the FCS playoffs. It marked the first time that both teams missed the playoffs since 1992.
The Bobcats found themselves in a 7-0 hole after the first offensive play of the game by UM as Brady Gustafson hit Justin Calhoun from 58 yards. MSU would allow just one first down the rest of the half, however, and true freshman quarterback Chris Murray scored from eight yards away when he flipped into the end zone and again from 48 yards out when he out-raced UM's defenders to give the Bobcats a 14-7 halftime lead. A pair of long runs by Gunnar Brekke (65 yards) and Nick LaSane (61 yards) set up a field goal and touchdown as MSU stretched it's lead to 24-7.
The Grizzlies mounted a comeback with 10 straight points, but surrendered the ball on downs at the MSU 29 with 6:20 to play. The Bobcats, who had gone 3-and-out on their previous two series, were able to drain the clock on the ensuing possession. Murray ran for two first downs, then completed a 26-yard pass to Connor Sullivan on fourth-and-1 to seal the win.
Murray, completed just two passes in the game, but rushed for 142 yards to become the third straight MSU freshman quarterback to start and win a Cat-Griz game at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. He joined Travis Lulay and DeNarius McGhee, who accomplished the feat in 2002 and 2010, respectively.
Accomplishments by the two rivals
|Walter Payton Trophies||1||0|
|Buck Buchanan Trophies||1||2|
|All-time program record||581–488–26||486–476–33|
|All-time win percentage||.543||.505|
|Montana victories||Montana State victories||Tie games||Vacated wins|
- ^* Montana was penalized by the NCAA on July 26, 2013 and forced to vacate its last five wins of the 2011 season, including the win against Montana State.
|Clyde Carpenter||Montana State||4||1946–48||1||3||0||.250|
|John H. Mason||Montana State||2||1950–51||0||2||0||.000|
|Tony Storti||Montana State||5||1952–57||2||3||0||.400|
|Wally Lemm||Montana State||1||1955||0||1||0||.000|
|Herb Agocs||Montana State||5||1958–62||3||2||0||.600|
|Jim Sweeney||Montana State||5||1963–67||3||2||0||.600|
|Tom Parac||Montana State||3||1968–70||1||2||0||.333|
|Sonny Holland||Montana State||7||1971–77||6||1||0||.857|
|Sonny Lubick||Montana State||4||1978–81||2||2||0||.500|
|Doug Graber||Montana State||1||1982||0||1||.000|
|Dave Arnold||Montana State||4||1983–86||3||1||.750|
|Earle Solomonson||Montana State||5||1987–91||0||5||.000|
|Cliff Hysell||Montana State||8||1992–99||0||8||.000|
|Mike Kramer||Montana State||7||2000–06||3||4||.429|
|Rob Ash||Montana State||9||2007–15||2||7||.222|
|Jeff Choate||Montana State||1||2016||1||0||1.000|
- Last tie was in 1928 and the Big Sky enacted overtime for conference games in 1980;
all Division I games went to overtime in 1996 (none in this series through 2016).
- Meseroll, Bob (November 18, 2013). "Since 1897, the Cat-Griz rivalry has captivated the state". Missoulian. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Rachac, Greg (November 23, 2013). "Grizzlies surge past Bobcats, 28-14". Billings Gazette. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- "NCAA penalizes Univ. of Montana over booster perks". Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Associated Press. July 26, 2013. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
- Kasper, John (September 25, 2013). "No. 48 Big Sky Innovation". Big Sky Conference. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- List of NCAA college football rivalry games
- List of most played college football rivalries in NCAA Division I