MISSOULA — "Hate."

That's the first word that comes to mind for Shann Schillinger when he thinks about the Brawl of the Wild rivalry. 

The vitriol between the two programs has long festered, beginning 120 years ago in 1897. The clash on Saturday in Bozeman marks the 117th meeting. Only 18 other rivalry games in NCAA Division I have a longer history — and just 16 of those rivalries are still active. 

"It's obviously one of the best rivalries that college football knows," Montana wide receivers coach Mike Ferriter said. "It's a big deal for the state of Montana because what makes Montana unique is there's a fine line. Either you're a Bobcat or you're a Grizzly, and you gotta pick one."

The Grizzlies overwhelmingly lead the all-time ledger 72-38-5, but Montana State has surged since 2002. Six of the 38 Bobcat wins have come during that span, with the most recent victory coming last season in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. 

With that loss, the Great Divide Trophy isn't resting within the friendly confines of the Adams Center for the first time since 2012. 

No one understands the rivalry more than someone who's played for that trophy.

Of the 12 men who currently coach Montana football, five of them — Chad Germer, Justin Green, Ferriter, Schillinger and Andrew Selle — wore either the copper and gold or the maroon and silver in their playing days. 

Careers in review

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Chad Germer played center for the Griz from 1989 to 1991. He is now Montana’s offensive line coach.

Chad Germer — 1989-1991

Germer, Montana's offensive line coach and run game coordinator, suited up for the Grizzlies at center under Don Read from 1989-1991.

By his career's end, the Three Forks native was an All-American and started in 36 consecutive games. Read called Germer, "one of the three great centers," he coached. The other two — Chuck Bradley and Fred Quillen — went on to play in the NFL. 

Germer's career at UM came during "The Streak," when Montana won 16-straight games over its rival to the east.

Donning No. 61, Germer's Grizzlies went 3-0 against the Bobcats during his time at center.

  • 1989: Montana wins 17-2
  • 1990: Montana wins 35-18
  • 1991: Montana wins 16-9

"They all kind of run together," Germer said with a chuckle. "I remember the games obviously quite well. Any time you're fortunate enough to leave with a victory, those stand out."

Since his playing days, he's coached at Montana three different times. His first stint at UM was from 1998-2002, his second brief tenure came in 2009, and his third time at Montana started in 2015. 

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Justin Green played running back for the Griz from 2003 to 2004. He’s now UM’s running backs coach.

Justin Green — 2003-04

Green, Montana's running backs coach and recruiting coordinator, played for the Griz for two seasons after transferring out of San Diego Mesa — a junior college in his hometown. 

Even though Green's Montana playing career was short, he managed to rise in the charts and leave a lasting impact among Grizzly running backs. 

Green still shares the school record for most rushing touchdowns in a game with four. His 22 career rushing touchdowns are seventh in program history. His 1,146 rushing yards in 2003 are eighth all-time for a single season. He still is 11th all-time in rushing yards. The list continues.

Green's unlike the other four coaches who played for Montana. He's not a Treasure State native and saw snow for the first time when he came to Missoula for his official visit. 

"I fell in love with it," Green said of snow. "It changed my whole atmosphere about how I thought football should be played."

Good for Green, since his first Brawl of the Wild was played in a blizzard. 

"It was a driving snowstorm. The snow was coming in sideways," Green said. "Being a junior college transfer, I remember not understanding the ramifications of that game and what it meant. There's no doubt that I knew it was important, but I took it on as every other game, which is a little different from how I did it the next year."

Green's UM teams split the Brawl of the Wild games during his career.

  • 2003: Montana State wins 27-20
  • 2004: Montana wins 38-22

In the loss in 2003, Green had 24 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown. In 2004's win, Green had five carries for 16 yards. 

He's been at Montana as a coach since 2011.

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Mike Ferriter played four seasons with the Griz as wide receiver, from 2005 to 2008. He’s now UM’s receivers coach..

Mike Ferriter — 2005-08

The Helena native coaches wide receivers for his alma mater and is the pass game coordinator. 

Before he took on those roles, Ferriter lined up at wide receiver for Montana for four seasons. 

Ferriter is just one of 14 Griz receivers to top the 2,000-yard mark for career receptions and is one of 17 to have 15 or more receiving touchdowns.

Ferriter went 3-1 against the Bobcats during his career. 

  • 2005: Montana State wins 16-6
  • 2006: Montana wins 13-7
  • 2007: Montana wins 41-20
  • 2008: Montana wins 35-3

In his first Brawl of the Wild, Ferriter had one catch for 10 yards. It was Montana's lone touchdown, coming in the fourth quarter. He followed that up the next year with two catches for 17 yards. His junior season, Ferriter had five receptions for 73 yards. And in Ferriter's final Brawl, he was Montana's leading receiver with two receptions for 54 yards.

He said his best memory of the Griz-Cat games was that 2008 stomping paired with wearing the copper and gold uniforms. 

"My senior year was when we came back out in the throwback uniforms," Ferriter said. "The first time we found out about that was that morning. We didn't know we were wearing those. The first time anyone saw them was when we came out of the tunnel. That was just something that was great to do."

He added, with a grin on his face: "My greatest memory of that day was winning 38-3."

Ferriter began coaching at UM in 2015. Former Montana coach Bobby Hauck gave him his start at UNLV in 2011 as an offensive graduate assistant. Ferriter coached inside receivers at Idaho State from 2013-14 before returning to Missoula. 

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Shann Schillinger played safety for the Griz from 2006 to 2009. He now coaches safeties at UM.

Shann Schillinger — 2006-2009

The pride of Baker coaches safeties for Montana and has done so for two seasons. 

Before his coaching career took off, Schillinger played safety for Montana for four seasons, following in the footsteps of his father. 

Schillinger's 257 career tackles from 2006-09 are 27th in program history and his 10 interceptions are tied for 13th. 

Like Germer, he never lost against the Bobcats. His UM squads went 4-0 in the rivalry. 

  • 2006: Montana wins 13-7
  • 2007: Montana wins 41-20
  • 2008: Montana wins 35-3
  • 2009: Montana wins 33-19

Schillinger saw playing time against Montana State in 2006, but didn't record any stats and had two tackles in 2007. In 2008, Schillinger was second on the team with eight tackles and had an interception. He had six tackles in his final game against MSU, a team-high, and had an interception and two pass breakups.

"It's a special week," Schillinger said of the lead-up to the Brawl of the Wild game. "We're really lucky to be in this state and to have a natural rival."

Before returning to his alma mater to coach, Schillinger had coaching stints at Dickinson State and Nebraska after hanging up his NFL cleats. 

"It means a lot to me to be back at this place," Schillinger said. "This place is where I grew from a boy to a man. Had a lot of great memories, had a lot of great mentors and that really molded me into who I am and now I get to give back to this university that gave me so much. It's special."

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Andrew Selle played quarterback and led the Griz to a national title game in 2009. He is now Montana’s quarterbacks coach.

Andrew Selle — 2007-2010

Selle, a Billings native, is Montana's quarterbacks coach and has been in that position since 2015.

Before filling that role, he played quarterback for Montana and led the Griz to the national title game in 2009.

Selle's 2009 season rewrote nearly the entire record book. 

Selle's 3,043 passing yards in 2009 rank as the 13th-highest season by any Griz quarterback. His 28 passing scores that season are tied for eighth-highest in program history.

He finished his career with 4,131 passing yards, a mark that's good for 12th all-time. His 38 career passing touchdowns rank tied for 10th-best in Montana football history. 

Selle's UM teams went 3-1 against Montana State, though he only played in one game.

  • 2007: Montana wins 41-20
  • 2008: Montana wins 35-3
  • 2009: Montana wins 33-19
  • 2010: Montana State wins 21-16

Cole Bergquist was the man under center in 2007 and 2008. Justin Roper took most of the snaps in 2010 after Selle went down with an injury during the fourth game of the year. Selle was Montana's go-to quarterback in 2009 and completed 17 of 22 passes for 163 yards with three touchdowns in the 33-19 win.

Fittingly, Selle's favorite memory of the Brawl was the game he played in.

"Going down there my junior year and beating them at their place," Selle said of his favorite Griz-Cat memory.

Coaching the rivalry

The rivalry implications are huge, but consistent preparation is a mantra for Montana's staff.

The coaches, though all in agreement, have different fundamental approaches to the game. 

"The great thing is, this staff has really taken control of part of how that thing leads up," Green said. "We've been talking about this since the last time we played them. That is exactly the angle and the point that we should make.

"This game should be talked about and it should be very slightly mentioned and it has been very slightly mentioned every single day, every single practice and it's been talked about to give just a slight understanding to the ones that have never played in it, the importance of it.

"If you're talking about a game that doesn't happen for 200 days from when it's talked about and you talk about it every single day up to the point of the game, that's going to bring some understanding to our players. Especially for the ones who've never played in it. For the ones that have played in it, and have lost, they don't ever want that feeling again.

"Understanding that process, those guys have it in the back of their head, that everything that they're doing is leading up to that point and leading up to that game. That it's a special game, that it's a special circumstance. We have to prepare them that way."

But on the flip side, the emotions have to stay at bay. 

"If you make it more than it is, then emotions can spill over and negative things can happen," Ferriter said. "You want to be able to control those emotions and treat it just like every single game, one game, one play at a time. Treat it just like every other week of the season."

Ferriter, even though he's a Montana native, does his best to approach the Brawl of the Wild game just like every other game. 

It's not something that's new to his coaching routine. He was the same way in college.

"My philosophy always was approaching it, and it's gonna sound a little cliche, but it's just another game," Ferriter said. "You approach every single game the same. Naturally, there's going to be a little more emotion that comes with that game, but I, as a player, couldn't ask myself and I can't ask my guys to give greater effort or more effort in that game because they should be giving maximum effort no matter who the opponent is."

Schillinger and Selle agree.

"As a coach, you gotta be careful," Schillinger said. "You should prepare the same way every week. Sometimes, I feel when you try to do too much, because it's a bigger game, you get out of your comfort level. You don't want to treat it any differently in a sense of preparation but it does, it's got more on the line."

Selle added: "As far as our preparation is concerned, you want to prepare consistently for every game that you play. There is an added element in practice throughout that week though. On game day, the atmosphere's Saturday, but on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday, it's a different atmosphere when you get out to practice. Understanding who you're playing on Saturday, it's not just another game. It is a big time game and a big time rivalry."

And by the game's end, the Grizzlies carry home the Great Divide Trophy, or they don't. Right now, the Bobcats have it in their possession. 

That's something Montana doesn't take lightly.

"If you have that trophy, you ended the regular season exactly how you wanted to do it with a win," Ferriter said. "You're reminded of that every single day by looking at that trophy when you have it and not looking at the trophy every single day when you don't."

Summing up the rivalry

Of all the memories, one pregame moment in Bozeman sticks out to Green. 

Former Griz running back Jordan Canada was a sophomore and he wasn't dressed out for the game due to an injury. 

Green and Canada were standing in the end zone next to the Montana State student section for warm ups.

"Their fans come in when we're warming up, which is rare," Green said. "If you've never had any hatred for anybody, you build it at that moment. 

"His sophomore year, he's standing there in the end zone and they're just going after him. Right then and there, I could tell that he knew he could never like State ever because of what those fans said to him about not being dressed. You develop it. Once you've been in one [laughs], that's all it takes."

Just because the rivalry is played between two FCS programs, doesn't mean the rivalry is less than the more well-known ones.

Schillinger's connections have told him about how the rivalry compares to others around the country.

His roommate in college was Brandon Fisher, former Montana strong safety and son of former St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams coach Jeff Fisher.

"He grew up around Auburn and Alabama," Schillinger said of the Iron Bowl game that's only had 81 meetings compared to the Brawl of the Wild's 116. "He says the intensity of this one is as much as any of those. It's hard to describe until you're around it, but it's sure a fun week to be around and we're really fortunate to be a part of something like it.

"It's an intense day. Usually cold and it's awesome. There's no way to describe the rivalry other than just awesome. I just wish I could go back and play in it one more time."

Amie Just covers Griz football for the Missoulian, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at Amie.Just@406mtsports.com.

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