The Brawl of the Wild, between Montana and Montana State, may be the best rivalry in FCS on a day filled with classic rivalries
By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
There are other rivalry games that are playing this last week of the regular season but while some will vote for the Harvard-Yale, Lehigh-Lafayette, or Bethune-Cookman-Florida A&M as the best, I will take the Montana-Montana State game.
I have some history of the small population state rivals when North Dakota played North Dakota State in the DII ranks. Basically, the entire state shuts down for three hours to see which school will reign supreme for the next year.
This is the same type of thing that will happens in the Treasure State when these two meet for the 110th time.
How does each team come into this matchup?
The Grizzlies (7-3) have built a 69-45-5 series lead and have won 21 of the last 24 meetings over Montana State.
This year’s game is at Washington Grizzly Stadium, a place that has not witnessed a Big Sky conference loss for Montana in the past 20 attempts.
The visiting Bobcats (8-2) have had a better season thus far than the Grizzles and will win at least a share of the Big Sky title along with the conference's automatic playoff bid with a triumph.
Montana State would share the BSC title with Eastern Washington should the Bobcats win and the Eagles defeat Idaho State Saturday.
A win by Montana and a loss by Eastern Washington would throw the Big Sky Conference race into a three-way tie and would give Montana a share of the title for the 13th straight season.
Montana would likely need a win on Saturday to have any realistic hope of earning an at-large playoff berth to extend its NCAA record of 17 straight trips to the postseason.
MSU holds the edge over EWU for the automatic bid as the Bobcats defeated the Eagles head-to-head earlier in the season.
Montana State is a healthier team than Montana and coming off a bye week. Montana last week defeated the Great West’s North Dakota and future Big Sky foe.
How will this game will play out?
A high scoring game is expected, with MSU redshirt freshman quarterback Denarius McGhee running the Bobcat offense.
Montana, which has struggled since the career-ending shoulder injury of quarterback Andrew Selle, will most likely try to establish the run game with senior Chase Reynolds.
Montana is in a must-win situation to continue its consectutive playoff streak to 18 straight seasons. One of Montana's seven wins came when the Grizzlies defeated Division II Western (Colorado) State in the opening week of the season.
A loss would leave the Grizzlies one win short of the suggested seven D-I victory recommendation in the NCAA playoff manual for playoff eligibility.
The weather will also play a role with the projected high temperature being in the low-to-mid 20s and snow showers expected.
In any event, this matchup might be on the of the best of the day with so much on the line for both teams.
You can take the other rivalry games. I for one will take the Brawl of the Wild game between Montana and Montana State.
CSN West Game of the Week
Montana State (8-2, 6-1) at Montana (7-3, 5-2), 2 p.m.
Montana State has one victory in Missoula since 1986, a 10-7 victory in 2002 when freshman quarterback Travis Lulay guided the Bobcats to the win. MSU hopes that their freshman signal caller McGhee this year can duplicate the efforts.
MSU leads the Big Sky in total offense, while UM is first in total defense. MSU averages 293.1 passing yards per game, tops in the league. UM is best in pass defense allowing just 140.2 passing yards per game.
As mentioned above, I believe this game will turn into a rather high scoring affair. I think Montana will be able to stop and likely force a couple of key turnovers to get the victory. I like the Grizzlies by a touchdown. Montana 33 Montana State 26.
CSN West News And Notes
•Idaho State announced on Sunday that fourth-year coach John Zamberlin will not return for a fifth season. Zamberlin, who came to ISU from Central Washington, is 4-27 in Big Sky games and 6-38 overall.
•Sacramento State junior Zack Nash set a Big Sky single-game record with five sacks in the Hornets’ 45-14 win over Idaho State on Saturday. His five sacks broke the previous Big Sky record of 4.5 set by Montana State’s Adam Cordeiro against Idaho State in 2001.
•Weber State’s Cameron Higgins, who sustained a knee injury against Montana State on Nov. 13 and was questionable last Saturday against Northern Arizona, became the Big Sky’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns. On Weber State’s first offensive play, Higgins connected with wide receiver Joe Collins on a 64-yard scoring strike. It was the 97th career TD pass of his career, surpassing EWU’s Matt Nichols and UM’s Dave Dickenson.
•Portland State’s Cory McCaffrey rushed for 226 yards - 201 in the first half - in a loss to Northern Colorado
•Sacramento State quarterback Jeff Fleming has 21 TD passes this season, a single-season school record.
•Montana senior Chase Reynolds scored three rushing touchdowns in Montana’s 27-17 win over North Dakota on Sunday, improving his career total to 58. Reynolds’ 51 touchdowns is a Montana career record. Reynolds’ 58 total touchdowns now ranks third in conference history. He trails’ Idaho’s Sherridan May (61), and Nevada’s Charvez Foger (60).
•Northern Iowa earned its Missouri Valley Football League-best 15th title following its 38-14 win against Missouri State this past Saturday. That win, coupled by a Western Illinois loss at Southern Illinois, gave the Panthers a two-game cushion with one game remaining.
•Missouri State (4-0) and Western Illinois (5-0) are both looking for perfect home seasons this year. They host North Dakota State and UNI, respectively, this weekend. Every league team will end the year with a .500-plus home record, marking the first time that’s happened since 2004.
•The Indiana State win at Youngstown State was the first road win in conference play for the Trees since 2002 (Southern Illinois), marked the first ISU win at Stambaugh Stadium since 1995, and snapped YSU’s 13-game win streak against Indiana State. ISU also snapped a 36-game road losing streak, dating back to a 2004 road win at Eastern Illinois. The win guaranteed ISU (6-4) of its first winning season since 1996.
•Northern Iowa’s Tirrell Rennie is the first UNI quarterback to ever rush for 1,000 yards in one season and he leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference in rushing this year (121.0 yards per game). He has 1,210 total rushing yards currently.
•North Dakota State used the strength of two interceptions for touchdowns to gain the Dakota Marker Trophy over South Dakota State 31-24.
•UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright completed 23-of-40 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions as UC Davis upset Cal Poly 22-21. Wright threw both of his TD passes to Sean Creadick in the fourth quarter, including the eventual winning score on a 5-yard connection with 35 seconds remaining.
•Dayton escaped for the second consecutive week, this time in double overtime at Marist. The Flyers clinched a share of their 11th PFL Championship in the PFL’s 18th season. Cornerback Matt Pfleger’s interception in the second overtime sealed the win and championship. Steve Valentino completed his career with a 19-2 record as a starting quarterback, rolling up 311 total offensive yards against Marist.
•Jacksonville’s come-from-behind victory against Campbell gave it a share of its second PFL Championship. The Dolphins also won the PFL in 2008. It was the Dolphins first 10-win campaign. Return specialist Colby Walden returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown to give Jacksonville its first lead of the contest. Defensive lineman Rolando Fines had 10 tackles and his sack forced a fumble on Campbell’s final play of the game. The Dolphins extended their overall win streak to nine games and their PFL win streak to 11 games.