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Bill Speltz: No Brawl this fall, but Cat-Griz cold war wages on with amusement

Bill Speltz: No Brawl this fall, but Cat-Griz cold war wages on with amusement

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MISSOULA — So apparently it's been 1,786 days since the Montana Grizzlies last beat the Montana State Bobcats in football.

I didn't actually do the math on that one. There's an entertaining Twitter page called DaysSinceUMbeatMSUinFootball that took care of it for me.

Friday's pithy post from the friendly DaysSince folks addressed a question: Who is your favorite Griz of all time? Their Bobcat-centric answer wasn't so polite: Probably all the players that went 0-4 in the 2016-2019 Cat-Griz games.

Ouch. 

The whole idea of keeping track has me thinking. In the absence of a real Brawl of the Wild this fall, we need to explore the Garden City's rib-gouging predicament:

Coincidence or not, the UM athletic department has never been the same since Robin Selvig retired as coach of the Montana women's basketball team and Ty Gregorak departed as defensive coordinator of the football Grizzlies. We're talking two larger-than-life personalities that helped define Griz sports — gone seemingly forever along with a swagger that has gone missing.

So what the hell does any of that have do with Montana losing its last four football games to Montana State? Think about it:

Without the hall-of-fame-worthy Selvig roaming the halls of Montana's athletic department, the Lady Griz are 1-7 against the Cats and the Montana football team is 0-4. Without Gregorak on Montana's side — he was actually D-coordinator with the Cats three of the past four years — the Grizzlies are 0-4 against the football Cats.

If it weren't for Travis DeCuire and his Bobcat-bouncing Montana men's basketball team, the Griz would be in a chasm so deep it might make it hard to walk down the street in maroon. 

As Missoulians, we should maybe learn to laugh, at least a little, about this football rut. It might be another 13 months before Montana even gets a crack at Montana State.

Yeah, that's right, you heard it here first: Spring football season, starting with scheduled frostbite practices in February, is a 50-50 bet at best. That's my take, judging by the COVID-19 cases we've seen this month.

Hey, I hope I'm wrong. So do Bobby Hauck's troops, who were looking like a good bet to beat the Cats in 2020. They're hungry to put last year's 48-14 debacle in Bozeman, and the heartbreaking loss on a fumble the year before in Missoula, in the rear view mirror.

Fortunately, Bobcats coach Jeff Choate was kind enough to offer an olive branch on Sons Day recently.

Just kidding, of course. Choate had nothing to do with olive branch mirage. It was a barb from the good folks at DaysSinceUMbeatMSUinFootball, who asked a rhetorical question of Hauck and his predecessor, Bob Stitt: Who is your daddy? The suggestion there was that Choate is that guy.

Stitt responded with an amusing Twitter retort: "Please lord," he wrote, "tell me I was adopted!"

Life just isn't the same in Montana without the Brawl. I tried to jazz mine up recently by working as an extra on the TV series Yellowstone. We all stood around for six hours waiting for a hyped-up experience that was disappointing — sort of like the last few Cat-Griz games for UM fans.

The more the leaves turn and the need for a stocking cap comes with my morning walk, the more I think about how I miss Griz and Cat football. For me fall Saturdays typically revolve around watching the Cats on TV for a while before heading to Washington-Grizzly Stadium for a Griz game.

Instead, now there's just that hollow feeling that comes with watching Brigham Young play some no-name team just so I can say I'm rooting for a team from the West.

It's sort of like going to the Missoula farmers market to hit up the sausage stand and all they have are rutabagas.

Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 14 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at bill.speltz@missoulian.com.

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