Montana–Montana State football rivalry
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November 25, 1897; 121 years ago|
November 18, 2017 in Bozeman|
Montana State, 31–23
|Next meeting||November 17, 2018 in Missoula|
|Trophy||The Great Divide Trophy|
|Meetings total||116 (one vacated: 2011)|
|All-time series||Montana leads 72–39–5 (.642); with both in NCAA Montana leads 32–28 (.533); with both in Big Sky Montana leads 30–24 (.556)|
|Largest victory||Montana, 79–0 (1904)|
|Longest win streak||Montana 16 (1986–2001)|
|Current win streak||Montana State 2 (2016–2017)|
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. It is also the fourth-oldest Football Championship Subdivision rivalry. Montana leads the series 72–39–5, but that margin is 32–28, which is considerably smaller, since Montana State joined the NCAA in 1957. The game, especially of late, has major implications for the Big Sky Conference championship and its automatic bid to the Division I – FCS playoffs.
The rivalry began on November 26, 1897 when the two teams played in Bozeman, home of Montana State. Montana prevailed in that game 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 all of NCAA Division I, and of those, it 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, the two teams would play twice per year. Early seasons had seven games or less, and one season the teams played 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 (RMAC) 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 Conference members. When MSU joined the RMAC, it included Colorado, Colorado State, Utah, Utah State, and Brigham Young. When UM joined the PCC, it included Stanford, California, UCLA, USC, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, and Idaho. The Bobcats were a member of the RMAC, which moved into the NAIA, in 1938 and remained a member through 1956. The Grizzlies were a member of the PCC through the 1949 season before joining the Skyline (a.k.a., 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 Power 5 conference schools, while MSU was either not in a conference or in a NAIA conference, for 30 of the 59 games played. UM holds a 22–5–3 record in those games.
In the first 23 years of the Big Sky Conference, Montana State enjoyed its most successful period in the Cat-Griz rivalry with a 17–6 win-loss record and 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 8–7 in favor of Montana. In the Big Sky era, Montana holds a 30–24 lead. Since both teams joined the NCAA in 1957, UM holds a 32–28 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, which was made possible by numerous donations. The winner of each game possesses the trophy for one year. The school with the most wins during the trophy period will hold the trophy forever at the end of the 21st century.
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 2017, the trophy is in the possession of Montana State. Montana holds a 9–7 series lead since the trophy was introduced to the rivalry.
In 1968, in what is considered by many to be the most exciting game in the series, quarterback Dennis Erickson, flanker Ron Bain and running back Paul Schafer lead a monumental comeback as the Bobcats clinched 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 were scored in the final quarter. Bain's brother, Doug of the Grizzlies, gave 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 rallied. 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 spoiled things for MSU. UM took over at the 20. Speedy receiver Ron Baines gained 15 yards, on top of which another 15 were tacked on for an unnecessary roughness penalty. Baines then made a circus run of 37 yards from midfield before he was dragged down at the MSU 13 as time expired.
In another exciting finish in the series, Montana State fought back from a 21–7 halftime deficit. Just as the first half ended, MSU was whistled for having too many men on the field, which gave UM one extra play. The Grizzlies made the Bobcats pay for this mistake by scoring a touchdown on the play to end the half. MSU took 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 got the ball on its own 35-yard line with no time expended from the clock. After an incomplete pass, UM quarterback Brian Ah Yat found receiver Justin Olsen for a completion of 46 yards to the MSU 19 with eight seconds to play. Ah Yat recovered his own muffed snap on the next play. After a UM timeout, Kris Heppner kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired, giving Montana the 27–25 win.
The Bobcats also misfired on special teams all game. Prior to kicking the ball out of bounds, they failed on three conversion attempts.
Montana State would get its heart broken again a year later. Leading in this game 21–20, and ahead for most of the second half, the Bobcats fell when Dallas Neil took a pass from Brian Ah Yat and tightroped the sideline for an 18-yard touchdown with just over five minutes to play. UM converted the two-point attempt and the Grizzlies won 28–21.
The game was played at a slippery Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, and extended the UM winning streak to 13 over MSU.
The Bobcats would finally put an end to their losing streak against the Griz at 16 games when true freshman quarterback Travis Lulay led 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 the 10–7 score 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 on both possessions, including one by star running back Chase Reynolds. 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 had 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 to score when it moved 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 a 12–0 lead. After Montana State scored quickly to start the second half, the Grizzlies answered on the next play with a 79-yard bomb from Jordan Johnson to Jabin Sambrano. 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.
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 what is arguably 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 home.
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, Montana, 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 from the FCS playoffs, by virtue of the Griz's 6–5 season record. 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 on a running play, 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 its 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 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||2||2016–17||2||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 2017).
- List of NCAA college football rivalry games
- List of most played college football rivalries in NCAA Division I
- 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.