Montana, Montana State Legends Talk Memories, Importance of Cat-Griz Rivalry

BOZEMAN – We know the tangible, concrete things that are at stake for the 121st Brawl of the Wild.

The Great Divide Trohpy, playoff positioning for both teams, and a potential Big Sky title for Montana State.

But for gamers, the intangibles are just as important. Pride, bragging rights, and plenty of emotion make the Cat-Griz one of the most intriguing rivalries in the land.

But you don’t have to take our word for it. Over the past week, we spoke to a few Cats and Griz legends who left indelible marks on their respective teams and Cat-Griz history. We asked them what made this rivalry more than just a game.


Dennis Erickson is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Over a 50-year career, he coached two NFL teams, 11 college teams and led the Miami Hurricanes to two NCAA national championships. He’s been around for several high-profile rivalries.

But the former Montana State quarterback says they all pale in comparison to the Wild’s brawl.

“For me, Montana-Montana State was the best I’ve ever been involved in,” Erickson said. “It’s not a Power 5 thing, it’s not anything like that. It’s about two schools in the same state, that’s in the same conference and you’re either a Bobcat or a Griz for that. that day.”

Erickson enjoyed a lot of success during his Bobcat playing days. He shared the field with All-Americans like Don Hass and Paul Schafer and helped pave the way to three conference titles.

Even after all the accolades and wins he has racked up at higher levels, Erickson still considers himself a Bobcat at heart.

“If it wasn’t for Montana State giving me a scholarship who knows where I would be,” he says. “That’s where I played and coached and made my debut. I owe them a lot. »

But he has ties to both programs. When Erickson played at Montana State, his father was an assistant at Montana. And now his son Bryce Erickson is the Grizzlies tight ends coach. Despite this, Erickson is still involved with the MSU program, most recently serving on the search committee that ended with the hiring of Bobcat trainer Brent Vigen.

Erickson said he was going to watch Saturday’s game on TV and shut up.

“It’s tough. It’s like my mum when I was playing against my dad, she was always supportive of her son,” Erickson said. “My wife (Marilyn) is the same way. But this game is special. I can’t lose on it, at all actually.”


Marc Mariani electrified Grizzly fans for four years as a wide receiver and running back, before a Pro Bowl career in the NFL.

Growing up in Le Havre, Mariani was a die-hard Griz fan. And despite being a decade away from his college days, the Cat/Griz thrill burns just as strong.

“For a boy from Montana, that’s why you go to school. It’s a big problem. It deeply means a lot to a lot of people,” Mariani said. “And for me, it hits a lot of chords. It fires me up, it makes me angry. It makes me want to put on a helmet and some pads again.”

Mariani had some incredible moments with Cat-Griz, including the 2008 game when he caught a touchdown and returned a punt for a score.

But his most memorable match in 2007.

“My first official start of my career was against the Cats. I didn’t have a huge role, but we had a few injuries and it was up to two sophomores to split that duty between me and Ty Palmer,” Mariani said. “So we go to Bozeman and for better or worse they had to throw a little lean second there trying to get some shots that day.”

Mariani has the distinction of never losing to the Cats. And he makes sure everyone knows it.

“When you see a Griz of a Cat, everyone wants to jump in,” Mariani said. “And I’m just saying I’m sorry, I never lost, I don’t know how it feels.”


When Junior Adams arrived at Bozeman as a transfer receiver from Oregon State, the Bobcats had lost 15 straight games to the Grizzlies. And he quickly felt the weight weighing on the program.

“After they beat us in 2001, they run out there and take their pads off. And they were wearing these T-shirts,” Adams said. “And I think the streak was 15 or 16 at the time and the t-shirts had 15 or 16. And after that moment, that’s when I realized how big it really was.”

But he left his mark on the rivalry. In 2002, he caught a pass from true freshman quarterback Travis Lulay and scored Montana State’s only touchdown of the game in a 10-7, ending the losing streak and starting a new era of competitive play. . Each team has won six games since.

Adams is now the offensive coordinator for the Oregon Ducks, who are currently ranked No. 12 in the nation and in pursuit of a Pac-12 title. He stopped in Washington and Boise State. But his first coaching job was at Montana State after graduation.

“And to this day, I’ve been in a lot of games since then, and I’ll tell you, it’s still tough to compete with that Cat-Griz game,” Adams said. “Some rivalry games are just plain big”. Cat-Griz is on a whole new level. It’s the Super Bowl. Both teams could be unbeaten or 0-11 and that’s the only game that matters.”


Dave Dickenson is considered the greatest Grizzly to ever wear brown and silver – or, in his day, copper and gold. He had a reputation for being cool, calm, and collected and showed it when he led Montana to the NCAA national championship in 1995. So it may come as a surprise that he felt a lot of pressure to succeed when he arrived at the Missoula campus.

“I felt a lot of pressure because being a local Montana guy and we had this long streak that started way before me,” Dickenson said. “And as my years progressed, we were hitting double digits and I don’t want to be known as a guy who was the quarterback at the end of the streak.”

Dickenson only started two games against Montana State and both (1993 and 1995) were at Bozeman. He was injured in the 1994 game at Missoula. Nonetheless, Dickenson won both of his starts at Bozeman, and he’s never been back since.

“The 1995 game was the last time I was in this city, and I never really felt they wanted me back,” he laughed.

Of course, Dickenson likes it when the Griz win, but he’s glad there’s parity between the teams.

“To have a long-term rivalry, you have to have back and forth. We obviously had our way during what, 16 years, 17 years. And then the Cats won four straight,” Dickenson said. “And you want back and forth because that’s what a rivalry means to me. So it’s back – a huge win for the Griz last year, but the Cats will be favored and probably deservedly so. It will always be a great game.”

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