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Football fans descend on Bozeman for annual Brawl of the Wild

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Posted at 10:20 AM, Nov 16, 2022

BOZEMAN — Tens of thousands of football fans will descend on Bozeman Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Here's what you need to know about the 2022 Brawl of the Wild. (This story will be updated continuously up to kickoff on Saturday.)

The Montana Grizzlies and Montana State Bobcats are set to meet for the 121st time on Saturday at noon in Bozeman. And for the third straight meeting, it'll be a Top-15 matchup between the two rivals.

Montana State (9-1, 7-0 Big Sky Conference) held at No. 3 in the latest Stats Perform FCS Top 25 poll, which was released on Monday. The Bobcats blew past Cal Poly 72-28 on Saturday evening to remain undefeated in conference play, and it'll be the second straight year MSU enters their game against UM perfect in Big Sky play.

Montana (7-3, 4-3) rose three spots to No. 13 in the latest poll. The Grizzlies defeated Eastern Washington 63-7 on Saturday in Missoula to win their second straight game.

The latest rankings add another layer to the rivalry game that has seen the two programs among the tops in the FCS over the last few years. UM was ranked No. 3 in 2019 while MSU was ranked No. 8 when the two teams met in Bozeman, and in 2021, the Bobcats were No. 3 while the Grizzlies were ranked No. 7 when they played each other in Missoula.

Last year Montana won 29-10. Prior to that, the Bobcats had won four straight meetings between the two Treasure State schools.

Montana State marching band readies for Brawl of the Wild, College GameDay

When you think of a Bobcat sporting event, it’s hard not to think of—and hear—the sound of MSU's Spirit of the West marching band. With ESPN's College GameDay coming to Bozeman, the anticipation couldn’t be higher.

Montana State marching band readies for Brawl of the Wild, College GameDay

Bozeman bars and breweries stocking up for Brawl of the Wild

Breweries and bars in Bozeman are expecting a boom in business this Saturday due to both the Cat-Griz game and College GameDay.

Bozeman bars and breweries get ready for Brawl of the Wild

Cats and Griz used to brawl in Butte

You may think Cat-Griz and College GameDay are a big deal, but 100 years ago, the Brawl of the Wild in Butte was a huge event.

Cats and Griz used to brawl in Butte

MSU calls for snow removal help at Bobcat Stadium

Montana State University Athletics and Sports Facilities are looking for help removing snow from seats at Bobcat Stadium.

Help will be needed on Wednesday, November 16, from 10 AM to 6 PM and on Thursday, November 17, from 10 AM to 2 PM. Check-in will be at the Bobcat Ticket Office on the north side of the Bobcat Athletic Complex.

ESPN GAMEDAY to go live in Montana

Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit
FILE - In this Oct. 12, 2013, file photo, ESPN College GameDay host Lee Corso, center, wears an Oregon Duck mascot head as he makes his prediction of an Oregon win over Washington in an NCAA college football game, during College GameDay's broadcast from Red Square on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. At left is co-host Chris Fowler, and at right is co-host Kirk Herbstreit. ESPN has agreed to a multiyear contract extension with Lee Corso, the 81-year-old star of "College GameDay." Corso joined ESPN in 1987 and has been part of the popular college football Saturday pregame show ever since. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

College GameDay announced it will be live from Montana State University at Dyche Field from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. MST.

Dyche Field is the practice field located between Bobcat Stadium and Brick Breedan Fieldhouse.

This will be the first time the popular pregame show has made the trek to either Montana school.

College GameDay previews the college football landscape with an on-site studio at the campus of their choosing. It's an interactive show with a live audience and is one of ESPN's more popular broadcasts, and is the most-watched college football pregame show. The 121st Brawl of the Wild will kick off at noon in Bozeman on Saturday with the Montana Television Network carrying the game's broadcast.

ESPN's College GameDay to go live from Dyche Field

A dream for college football fans, every week during football season campuses around the country fight to be in the national spotlight for ESPN’s College Dame Day.

“I watch College GameDay from growing up because I watch college football with my family quite often,” says MSU Sophomore Elizabeth Hickey.

That spotlight for the first time ever will be on Bozeman for Montana’s biggest sports week.

“Having the honor of them coming to Bozeman, especially for Cat-Griz is super cool,” says Hickey.

MSU students react to ESPN's College GameDay coming to Bozeman

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE TEAMS' SEASON IN REVIEW

Coming off their trip to the national championship, there was a lot of noise surrounding this year’s Bobcat football team wondering if the loss of several stars would impact their success going forward.

That obviously has not been the case this fall as Montana State remains just one win away from a Big Sky regular season championship in a regular season that’s culminating with the 121st edition of the Brawl of the Wild.

Starting off with Gold Rush, the Bobcats came into the season ranked No. 4 in the FCS as they opened 2022 action against McNeese State, 40-17. Montana State got off on the right in front of a sold-out crowd that was led on the ground by Lane Sumner’s 176-yard rushing performance.

Montana State already deep in College GameDay preparations

The Bobcats followed with another convincing win at home against Morehead State, but their real test came in Week 3 when they hit the road to Oregon State. The play of the game came on a 98-yard kickoff return by Marqui Johnson, but the Pac-12 foe was a red zone monster rolling past the Bobcats to win by 40.

The following week Montana State looked to bounce back on the Red Inferno at Eastern Washington to open up Big Sky play, but little did they know they would be without their starting quarterback Tommy Mellott after a scary hit in the first quarter. However, an offensive shootout capped off by a 13-yard Sean Chambers touchdown took down the 15th-ranked Eagles, 38-35.

Week 5 featured a Big Sky After Dark matchup on primetime television as the Bobcats hosted UC Davis, and with Mellott out it was Chambers who answered the call on his first start. The Wyoming transfer set a new program record, accounting for more than 200 yards on both the ground and through the air in their 41-24 win.

Montana State's defense was the winner against Idaho State notching six takeaways to tie a program record, while in Greely, Colorado, it was Willie Patterson who put on the show against the Golden Bears.

Week 8 saw movement in the polls thanks to a North Dakota State loss, setting up what was a marquee Top-5 matchup against Weber State, which was a game riddled with rain. That may have contributed to the Wildcats' four safeties, but along with a 273-yard rushing performance by Touchdown Tommy, the Bobcats remained undefeated in the Big Sky, taking down the Wildcats by five.

121st Brawl of the Wild: Montana State Bobcats season in review

Following a much-needed bye, the Bobcats headed down south to Flagstaff, Arizona, to a venue that’s known to give them some problems – and it did. Northern Arizona took Montana State all the way down to the wire with just over a minute remaining, but an unscripted 64-yard pass from Mellott to Taco Dowler set up a 24-yard game-winner by Blake Glessner, 41-38.

Then of course this past weekend the team traded in frigid temps for sunny skies, and it was Marqui Johnson who shined helping the Bobcats set a new single-game rushing record with 554 yards for both the program and the Big Sky.

Now Montana State faces the granddaddy of them all as they prepare for their neighbors over the divide, but a win in the 121st Brawl of the Wild also secures them their first Big Sky championship since 2012.

The Grizzlies entered the season ranked No. 3 in the preseason polls, and were picked to win the regular season title in the Big Sky Conference.

Things got off to a bang behind new quarterback Lucas Johnson, as the Griz kicked off the season with a 47-0 win over Northwestern State, and in their three non-conference games, Montana out-scored opponents 120-21 to start the year 3-0.

Conference play started off strongly as well, as the Grizzlies topped Portland State and Idaho State to begin league play 2-0, and head into their bye week, 5-0.

Coming off the bye is where things began to go off the rails for the Grizzlies. A mistake-ridden contest against the Idaho Vandals cost the Griz their first game of the year, as Idaho won the Little Brown Stein for the first time since 1999.

The following week was a big one as the Grizzlies had to hit the road to Sac State for a top 10 matchup on national TV. After injuries affected the Griz, and some late crucial calls, Montana lost to Sac State in overtime to drop to 5-2 with their second straight loss.

After Johnson went down against the Hornets, the following week he was out again as the Griz hit the road to take on Weber State, and the offense mustered just 114 yards total, and the Wildcats won 24-21 to hand UM its third straight loss.

121st Brawl of the Wild: Montana Grizzlies season in review

But over the last two weeks, the Griz have bounced back in a big way.

Two weeks ago Montana blew out Cal Poly 57-0 on a snowy night in Missoula, and they followed that up with a 63-7 beat down of Eastern Washington this past weekend at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

So, that leads us to this week, where the Griz sit at 7-3 overall and 4-3 in league play and ranked No. 13 in the FCS. With that record, they're likely in the playoffs, and Saturday's outcome will have a big factor in where they end up on the Sunday after the game.

For now, all eyes on are the rivalry game, and it'll be a Top-15 clash when UM and MSU meet in Bozeman on Saturday.

"I'm excited for this game. I love playing down there, I just always have," Griz head coach Bobby Hauck said during his Monday press conference. "Just always really enjoyed it. I think I saw my first college football game there and just kind of always have enjoyed the games down there.

"We're going to need to play well again in order to have a chance to win this game. I assume we'll be an underdog in the game, but we've beaten this opponent 73 times in the history of this rivalry, and outside of Nebraska's 91 over Kansas, I don't know if there's a Division I team with more wins over one opponent so we kind of have a feeling like we ought to win this game too."

Bozeman Police prepare safety measures for Cat-Griz game day

Bozeman Police Department is planning and prepping for the 121st Brawl of the Wild and for ESPN's College GameDay coming to town.

BPD will be increasing patrol, specifically, in the downtown area during the event.

“We prepare for big events for a very long time,” says Deputy Chief Andy Knight. “Planning is what we do, we listen for intel and prep for any big events that might happen—so we’re ready to go.”

This will be the first time ESPN’s College GameDay pre-show comes to the Big Sky conference, but this is far from Bozeman PD’s first Brawl of the Wild Event. Deputy Chief Knight has worked his fair share of rival games and says that the extra patrol and police presence will work to keep everyone safe.

“We focus in on crowds where people hang out, and we typically see that downtown—so we’ll saturate downtown.” says Deputy Chief Knight.

Stephen Lehmann, vice chairman for the Gallatin County DUI Task force says that he hopes people have fun while balancing the responsibility while drinking.

“There are consequences with your choices, there have been with myself, so it’s a matter of setting yourself up for success way beforehand,” says Lehmann. With the amount of people that are on the streets, within the community, to make it a safe enjoyable game.”

BIGGER THAN FOOTBALL

We’ve been talking about The Brawl of the Wild this week and coverage leading up to the game won’t stop until the big day.

But it wouldn’t be a Cat-Griz match-up without the annual "Can the Griz/Can the Cats" an effort to raise awareness and donations in Montana and the Cat-Griz Blood Drive, which are two very important community events.

How the Brawl of the Wild supports the Missoula Food Bank and Red Cross with local, friendly competition

“You know those donations coming in really allow us to serve our community,” said Missoula Food Bank executive director Amy Allison Thompson.

It’s about showing the true spirit of Montanans.

“The goal is to just collect as many units of blood as possible to help our community,” said Red Cross Missoula Mobile Collections Center supervisor Fred Hall.