By: George Ferguson
It's not the Hatfields and the McCoys. It is much bigger and much more heated than that. When the University of Montana and Montana State take to the field at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman on Saturday for the 105th time, it will be nothing short of Montana's version of a football civil war.
And the rivalry extends far beyond the football field. Each year it spills into the stands. I should know because I have been a part of many a heated exchange over the years.
I have witnessed eight Cat/Griz games in person since 1993, and I can attest to the fact that the passion behind this game reaches much deeper and much farther into the psyche of Monatanans than any other sporting event that takes place in the state.
What has even astonished me more about the Cat/Griz rivalry is what I've learned during the times I haven't attended the game in person. I have watched the game in a bar and at a house party, and what I know is that on Saturday this game will be the pulse of Montana. Friends become enemies, families are split in two, and for about 3 hours, Bozeman, heaven forbid, will become the center of Montana's universe.
As far as I can tell, Havre seems to be split when it comes to Cat/Griz loyalities. It is no secret where I stand on this matter. I wear maroon and silver on my sleeve. But for every Griz fan I know, there seems to be a Bobcat fan right there to remind me of why I dislike MSU so much.
To commemorate the 2005 Cat/Griz game, and to show readers just what I mean about how much people, even in Havre, care about this game, I decided to ask a few Griz fans, and yes, even a few Cat fans, about their favorite memory from the rivalry.
We'll start with a couple of former bosses of mine.
Ryan Divish of the Idaho State Journal: While most Cat-Griz games were usually a blur of emotions, jubilations and of course, libations, there is one in particular that stands out. The
1997 game in Bozeman was the greatest moment that I've witnessed.
Sure, the game is always better when in it's in Missoula, but the sheer drama that unfurled in the last 22 seconds of that game may never be replicated.
It appeared that the Bobcats were going to end a 15-year losing streak
when Eric Kinnaman scored a touchdown to put them up 25-24 with 22 seconds remaining.
Rick Reynolds and I made the mistake of sitting in the MSU student
section, surrounded by friends who went to school there. They were going absolutely insane. They teased, tormented and ridiculed us.
“We're going to go get ready to tear down the goal posts,” they said. “Do you want to come?”
However, as they positioned themselves by the end zone, MSU kicker
Geoff Groshelle's kick sailed out of bounds, giving UM the ball on the
35-yard line. There was hope. My long lost twin brother, Brian Ah Yat, completed a long pass to Justin Olsen with eight seconds to play, putting the Grizzlies in field goal range.
UM kicker Kris Heppner kicked a 37-yard field goal with no time remaining to give the Griz a 27-25 win and extend MSU's streak of misery to 16 years.
Rick and I were the only people celebrating in the section. We screamed,
we laughed, I think we even hugged. We were about two seconds away from
Our once-enthusiastic friends returned with faces longer than the goal
posts themselves. They looked like they had just lost a winning Powerball
Of course, being the type of people we are, Rick and I asked in unison: “I thought you guys were going to tear down the goal posts?”
The anguish continues this year: Montana 27, MSU 21.
Harvey Brock, former Havre Daily News publisher and longtime Cat fan: My favorite Cat/Griz game was three years ago when the Cats beat the Griz in Missoula in a snowstorm. I volunteered to judge speech at the Havre High Invitational, and I missed most of the game. I got home in time to see the end, and the look on the faces of all those Grizzly fans in the Grizzly
kingdom was incredibly sweet.
I think the Cats are going to hammer the Griz Saturday 21 to zip. Go Cats!!!!
Wells Lamey, very longtime Griz fan: My favorite moment was in Bozeman a few years back (1997). It looked as though the Bobcats had the game won. All of the fans were celebrating, and people I know were ready to hand the game to them. Then, with less than a minute to go, the Griz got the ball, went right down the field and kicked a game-winning field goal. I loved that moment because all of the Cat fans had already started celebrating.
Pat Foster, Hi-Line resident and super Bobcat fan: The best moment for me was 2002 when the Cats finally ended the losing streak in Missoula. I had been sitting with Griz fans the entire game, and when it was over I just remember standing there cheering as all the Griz fans were filing out with their heads down. I was the only one left in my section. That was a great day.”
Cats 34, Griz 24
Scott Miller, Havre High senior and young Bobcat fan: I think the best moment for me in the rivalry was 2003 in Bozeman. It was a close game and it looked like the Griz had come back to win. But then Joey Thomas picked off Craig Ochs and ran it back for a touchdown, and the Cats held on for the second year in a row. That was my first memory of how big the Cat/Griz game really is. Cats 14, Griz 7
See what I mean? Cat fans love the anguish of Griz fans and vice versa. It seems to have little to do with football. Thankfully for this Griz fan, I have enjoyed far less anguish and much more nirvana.
Oh, I almost forgot. My favorite Cat/Griz moments. There are a couple that really stand out.
The first two flyovers during the national anthem in Missoula still give me chills. In 1996 the game began in a thick fog over Washington/Grizzly Stadium, and just as the the national anthem ended, two Army helicopters swooped over the stadium. That was awesome.
But in 2000, when two F-16 fighter jets broke the sound barrier as the anthem ended, I nearly got tears in my eyes and I was ready for football after that.
However, my favorite is the first time I ever saw the game live. It was 1993 in, of all places, Bozeman. The Griz program was just starting to get rolling but they had already piled up six straight wins in the series. It was snowing, it was windy and it was freezing cold. And Dave Dickenson was throwing touchdown passes all over the field and I was taunting MSU fans right there in their home stadium.
From that day forward, I was hooked for life. No matter where I go or what I do, on the third Saturday in November, the only thing that will matter is Cat/Griz football.
My prediction: Griz 27, Cats 24.