These aren’t necessarily the closest or best-played of the 104 Brawls of the Wild, although this list features some barn-burners and includes games that featured incredible performances.
But this list also includes games that changed the course of the series – even if those changes weren’t apparent or evident at the time.
And, of course, like all of these lists, it’s subjective. This list was compiled by the sports staff of the Missoulian originally for a section to commemorate the 100th Brawl; it’s been updated and revised for this section.
1 1997: Grizzlies win 27-25 in Bozeman
A few Brawls of the Wild had go-ahead touchdowns in the last moments, and one other had a late field goal to win it. This had both. At a time during The Streak when the Bobcats finally seemed on equal footing, Eric Kinnaman scores with 22 seconds left to put the Cats up 25-24. Kinnaman’s conversion run is stopped inches short.
MSU’s Geoff Groshelle kicks off out of bounds and on the second play from the 35, Grizzly quarterback Brian Ah Yat fakes a handoff and throws deep to Justin Olsen for 46 yards to the Montana State 19. After one more play, the Grizzlies call time out with four seconds left to set up a field goal attempt by Kris Heppner. Heppner, iced for several minutes by a series of timeouts, kicks a 37-yard field goal as time expires for the win.
2 2002: Bobcats win 10-7 in Missoula
By no stretch the best-played or most exciting game of the series, this is nevertheless the victory with the most recent resonance for Bobcat Nation: On a snowy, bitter afternoon in Missoula, The Streak ends – and it’s all the sweeter for the Cats because it ends in the Grizzlies’ house. Bobcat freshman QB Travis Lulay connects on a 53-yard TD pass to Junior Adams in the third quarter to pad the lead to 10-0, and the Cat defense makes the lead stand up, despite a Griz TD early in the fourth quarter. The Streak ends at 16 straight wins for the Grizzlies.
3 1968: Bobcats win 29-24 in Missoula
Some students of the series consider this to be the best game in the series: Montana State scores 20 points in the last nine minutes and wins when Paul Schafer leaps into the end zone with 12 seconds left. After Schafer’s touchdown, the Grizzlies launch a hasty answer from the 20 with speedy receiver Ron Baines at quarterback. He gains 15 and another 15 are tacked on by an unnecessary roughness penalty. Baines then races 37 yards from midfield before he’s dragged down after time expires. Quarterback Dennis Erickson, flanker Ron Bain and Schafer lead the comeback as the Bobcats clinch a tie for the Big Sky championship. In all, 34 points are scored in the final quarter. Bain’s touchdown catch with five minutes left brings the Bobcats within 24-22. His brother, Doug, gave the Grizzlies a 17-9 lead early in the quarter on a pass from Ray Brum.
4 1986: Grizzlies win 59-28 in Missoula
The game that started The Streak; arguably, no Griz-Cat game did as much to turn the series or a program around. In their second game in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, the Grizzlies lead 31-0 at halftime and 45-7 after three quarters. They roll up 506 yards, roughly 50 percent of it passing, and even their season record at 3-3 under new head coach Don Read. Senior quarterback Brent Pease runs for the first touchdown and passes for two more. The Bobcats make an aerial assault behind reserve quarterback Shaun Shahan in the final period to make it closer. But it’s all but curtains for MSU head coach Dave Arnold, whose Bobcats won the national title two years earlier.
5 1956: Bobcats win 33-14 in Missoula
Before the streak of 16 started, Montana State had suffered through a half-century of football woes against the Grizzlies. But the Bobcats wash away five decades of frustration with a convincing win in Missoula – and go on to win 21 of the next 29 Brawls. This time, the Cats cap an undefeated season and secure a berth in the Aluminum Bowl in Little Rock, Ark., where they battle St. Joseph’s to a 0-0 tie. Big Don Edwards scores two touchdowns in the second half and a freshman triad of quarterback Dave Alt, halfback Jack Rada and center Sonny Holland shine for MSU. Of the three, only Holland plays in subsequent Brawls. He’ll finish his career a three-time All-American. Several hundred Bobcat rooters tear down the south goalpost at sunny Dornblaser Field. Coach Tony Storti is toted off the field on the shoulders of Bobcats celebrating their first victory in Missoula since 1902.
6 1922: Grizzlies win 7-6 in Missoula
It’s dubbed “as hectic and fierce a struggle as Dornblaser field will ever see.” It’s perhaps also the most controversial ending of any Brawl. UM fullback “Bullet” Joe Kershner of Billings scores the tying touchdown as time runs out in the descending darkness at Montana’s Homecoming game. MSU’s timekeeper insists the final play didn’t start in time. UM’s timekeeper says it did, and he has the last word. State College coach Ott Romney charges onto the field during the argument, is shooed off, then returns. “Other dignitaries, all the way from the president of the university to the waterboys ... surged on the gridiron and harassed the officials,” reports the Missoulian. Finally the extra-point is attempted and captain Harvey Elliott of Missoula kicks it through. MSU protests it shouldn’t count because fans are on the field. “In the eyes of God and in 60 minutes of play, we won that game,” proclaims Romney.
7 1954: Grizzlies win 25-21 in Missoula
The Bobcats roar into their last game of 1954 unbeaten under Tony Storti, with the Cigar Bowl in Florida and the Refrigerator Bowl in Indiana eyeing them. The Grizzlies are last in the Skyline Conference, though they’ve beaten the Bobcats six straight times and 16 of the last 17. UM’s Murdo Campbell runs 61 yards for a TD on the first play from scrimmage. Don Edwards answers with a 43-yard jaunt to set up a Bobcat score. But Edwards is taken to the hospital with a concussion as a brutal battle develops. The Bobcats, their bowl hopes on the line, close within four on a late interception return by end Jim Posewitz. They’re on the Grizzly 32 when a last-ditch pass goes awry at the gun.
8 1947: Bobcats win 13-12 in Butte
On the 50th anniversary of the first Brawl of the Wild, the Bobcats break a 10-game losing streak that dates back to the depths of the Great Depression in 1932. It’s a balmy mid-October day at the all-dirt Butte High field, later named to honor Griz great Eso Naranche. All the scoring is in the second half. Barney Berger, former Grizzly halfback, kicks the winning extra point for the Bobcats following a 4-yard touchdown pass on fourth down from Gene Bourdet to Harry Perrigo in the fourth quarter. That makes it Cats 13-6. The Grizzlies score, but Buck Preuninger misses the extra-long extra point by inches after a penalty moves the ball back. “It was a game for keeps and when somebody was slammed down, it was hard,” the Missoulian’s Ray Rocene reports.
9 1969: Grizzlies win 7-6 in Bozeman
The third straight hair-raising Brawl finally goes the Grizzlies’ way in the mud. Norwegian-born Frank Kalfoss of the Bobcats leaves a 42-yard field goal try wide left with 25 seconds left. UM hadn’t won at Gatton Field since 1955. The winning touchdown is scored late in the first half when quarterback Ray Brum avoids a tackler in the backfield, nearly slips to the ground, then flings the ball downfield to halfback Arnie Blancas, who avoids his defender to consummate a 49-yard TD play. Dan Worrell kicks the vital extra point. On MSU’s next series, Kalfoss has his first shot from 42 yards – and makes it.
10 1908: Aggies win 5-0 in Bozeman
The first upset of the series is ascribed to presumption. “Nothing but the overconfidence of the Missoula team can explain it,” the Missoulian reports the next day, Nov. 21. Bozeman’s Richard Fransham makes “as spectacular a run as was ever seen on a Montana football field” for a 35-yard touchdown early in the second half. A number of UM thrusts deep into Bobcat territory are blunted by penalties or goal-line stands. It’s the second game of 1908; the teams battled to a 0-0 tie a month earlier in Missoula. MSU leads the series 7-4-1, but won’t beat the Missoula boys again until 1929. The School of Mines in Butte is recognized as Montana champion for 1908. The Miners split games with UM and trounced Montana State 32-5.