George Ferguson column: It really is a special rivalry
The final score may have been shocking to many fans on both sides of Saturday's 111th meeting between the Montana Grizzlies and Montana State Bobcats — I'll admit, it shocked me. But there were so many more things that made this Cat-Griz game a special one.
Griz fans, of course, now have bragging rights, at least for 360-plus days, unless the Cats and Griz meet again in the FCS playoffs, then all bets are off. But bragging rights aside, a lop-sided score aside, there is no question that Cat-Griz Saturday is the best Saturday every year in the state of Montana.
And here's some things I took away from the latest war between the team in Maroon and the team in Blue.
First off, the Grizzlies were certainly superior in every facet of Saturday's game and that's impressive in it's own right. But I think what shocked me more was that they did in Bozeman and they did it this way in head coach Robin Pflugrad's second-ever Brawl of the Wild.
I don't know what it looked like to others, but it appeared to me that the squad from Missoula came to Bozeman hell-bent on winning this game. And they certainly left Bozeman having got what they wanted.
Equally as interesting to me was the battle in the trenches, which UM clearly won. That really surprised me given what the MSU offensive and defensive lines had done to opponents during the Cats' nine-game winning streak.
Yes, there were plenty of big plays on both sides of the ball, but I think you can point to Montana's ability to dominate on the lines which set the tone and made the difference on Saturday.
And I know Cats' fans don't want to hear this right now, but I took plenty of positives away from them this weekend too.
First, I don't care if MSU had lost by 50 points to the Grizzlies on Saturday, you'd have to be blind to not see how talented they are. When you really play attention, the Bobcats are loaded with playmakers, and no matter what the scoreboard read in Bozeman, I don't see any reason why the Cats can't win a national championship — this year.
Secondly, I just have to give MSU and its fans a ton of credit for really upping the ante on its game day atmosphere. Not just in attendance but in how MSU conducts its games, with cannons and fireworks, the Cat Prowl to a state-of-the-art HD video screen, I think Montana State has joined Montana as two of the premier game day experiences in the FCS.
And to me, that's what's great about the state of the Montana-Montana State rivalry right now — it's equal.
I know, the Bobcats got thumped on Saturday and the Griz have won five of the last six Brawl's but last I checked, MSU was the No. 1 team in the FCS on Saturday and that means the Cats are every bit an equal in this great rivalry. And that's the way it should be.
Don't get me wrong, as a fan and a former UM student, of course I'm glad for Saturday's outcome. But I have never wanted this rivalry to be one-sided, and the way both Montana and Montana State are playing football these days, this rivalry is only going to escalate.
And whether you're a Bobcat or a Grizzly, that's how we all should want it to be.
(George Ferguson is sports editor of the Havre Daily News.)