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Cat-Griz rivalry still making history after 122 years

Posted at 5:10 PM, Nov 22, 2019

BILLINGS — 1897. William McKinley is sworn in as the nation's 25th president. Amelia Earhart is born in Atchison, Kansas, and the Montana State Bobcats and Montana Grizzlies begin one of the longest rivalries in college football history.

Starting with that 18-6 Griz Thanksgiving Day win, the two have played 118 times. Montana dominated the series through the mid-1950's, when things finally started to turn the Cats way. Montana State won 22 of 30 matchups from 1956-85, including three national titles as one of the best programs in the country. And then came The Streak.

A month before the 1986 game, the Griz opened their new home, dubbed Washington-Grizzly Stadium, and it gave Missoula a jolt. The Griz put up 59 points in Don Read's first rivalry game. Then came the largest blowout in the modern era in 1987 - a 55-7 Griz drubbing that included a Division 1-AA record four blocked punts. It was business as usual for the next seven years - seven more easy Griz wins - but things changed in 1995. The Cats led 25-20, until Super Dave Dickenson threw three fourth quarter touchdowns. The Griz won 42-33, en route to the first national title in program history.

The closest the Cats came to ending The Streak was in 1997. Eric Kinnamon jumped outside and scored from three yards away to give MSU a 25-24 lead with 22 seconds left in front of a raucous Bobcat Stadium. But after the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, Montana QB Brian Ah Yat found Justin Olson for 46 yards to set up Kris Heppner for the game-winning 38-yard field goal as time expired for Montana's 12th straight Cat-Griz win.

The Griz ran off four more wins the next four years, including their 16th straight in 2001 on their way to another national title, and Cats fans wondered if it would ever end. Then came a true freshman quarterback by the name of Travis Lulay.

On a cold, windy day in 2002, Lulay hit Junior Adams in stride on a 53-yard touchdown to help the Cats finally end The Streak with a 10-7 win. Lulay would cement his legacy as one of the greatest QB's in Bobcat history with two more wins over the Griz in the next three years, which coincided with a 1-2 start for Bobby Hauck against "that team in Bozeman."

But Hauck would right the ship quickly. 2006 - Griz get a big second half interception from Colt Anderson on their way to a 13-7 win. 2007 - Lex Hilliard runs for three touchdowns as the Griz finish the regular season undefeated with a 41-20 win. 2008 - Montana lights up Washington-Grizzly in throwback uniforms, Marc Mariani opens the scoring with a 75-yard punt return TD, and the Griz roll 35-3. 2009 - Griz finish 11-0 again with a 33-19 win in Hauck's final Cat-Griz game, or so we thought at the time.

It looked like 'Big Brother' was back to start another run, but on a snowy day in 2010, Orenzo Davis ended that narrative with one of the most electric touchdown runs in series history. On the final play, MSU's Michael Ryder intercepted the Griz Hail Mary as the Cats got out of Missoula with a 21-16 win. That propelled them to a dream season in 2011, as they entered Cat-Griz ranked No. 1 in the country, but the nation's top-ranked offense was held to just 250 yards in a 36-10 Griz win.

MSU made it four straight road wins the next year, as Saco's Kruiz Seiwing scored the game's only touchdown in a 16-7 win. The Griz took control again the next three years, with three double-digit wins, but the Cats have had the last laugh, with their first three-game win streak since The Streak, including the largest comeback in series history last year, once down 22-0, and punctuated with the Miracle in Missoula.

We'll see what Cat-Griz 119 has in store Saturday.