The 114th meeting between the University of Montana Grizzlies and the Montana State Bobcats on Saturday also marked a special anniversary for Bryce Bondurant.
The lopsided 34-7 Grizzly victory came on the 50th consecutive year that Bondurant walked into the stadium – be it in Missoula or Bozeman – to watch the great cross-state showdown.
Bondurant began his history with the Brawl of the Wild on the other side of the rivalry. He attended his first Griz-Cat game in Bozeman in 1965, when he was 17 years old. Four years later, he graduated from MSU.
He moved to the Missoula area and became a real estate agent, but for years remained a true blue (and gold) Bobcat fan.
“A friend of mine brought Larry Donovan to town, who became the new head coach, and I made the switch that day,” Bondurant said.
Since Washington-Grizzly Stadium was built, he and his wife have claimed the same Section 123 seats as their own.
“In the middle of the 1986 season, they opened the stadium. That summer, they let reserve seat holders from Dornblaser come over and pick their seats at the new stadium,” Bondurant said.
The group of friends, including Bondurant and his wife, who had previously had their seats on the east side 50-yard line picked the same place for their season tickets in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
While it was a cold and breezy November day for Saturday's Brawl, Bondurant said he’s attended some Griz-Cat games where the weather was downright brutal.
“A few years ago in Bozeman, it had been blowing rain and snow for three days leading up to the game," he remembered. "On game day, there was ice so thick they couldn’t get it off the stands. So we were at that game sitting there with six inches of ice underneath our feet all game.”
Bondurant’s wife Barbara missed out on matching his Griz-Cat record by one game. She missed the game one year when she traveled with Frenchtown High School’s football team to the state championship, and the games were held on the same weekend.
“The 50 mark, about 10 years ago, that became a big goal that I wanted to hit,” he said.
This year might be where the streak ends, though, Bondurant said. While he might change his mind when the game comes around next year, he’s not sure if he will be traveling to Bozeman for the game in 2015. Still, he feels comfortable that nobody will be reaching his milestone any time soon.
“Do I know anyone else who is even close? No,” he said.
Bondurant said he’ll definitely be in the stadium two years from now, when the game returns to Washington-Grizzly.
“I won’t miss a home game as long as we’re in Missoula,” he said.
UM started a new tradition Saturday with the “Griz Walk” pep rally prior to the game, which set a record attendance at 26,352. The Grizzly Marching Band lined the sides of the walkway leading to the stadium, and the crowd cheered as the players walked down the sidewalk in their street clothes and into the building to change into their all-maroon gear.
Tyler Bennett was one of the blue-and-gold Bobcat fans in a sea of maroon as he walked toward the entrance before the start of the game.
He said he wore every piece of Bobcat gear he had, just because he knew he was going to a game in Grizzly territory.
“I went 100 percent just because I’m going to be here, so I’m wearing even more than for a home game,” he said. “I even found a Bobcat tie clip.”
Bennett had made a blue and gold stocking cap and a matching scarf for the game, with the shape of a gold smiling mouth stitched into the fabric.
“That’s so I can always be smiling as a Cat fan, even when I have to pull it up over my face from the cold,” he said.
The game also marked the end of the annual food drive competition between Missoula and Bozeman. Donations ended at halftime, and though the Bobcats didn't win the game, Bozeman was successful in collecting more food than Missoula.
"Unfortunately, they edged us out this year, but just barely," said Sandi Tyler from Karl Tyler Chevrolet and Cadillac, one of the organizers of the Can the Cats food drive.
This year, Missoula gathered 122,000 pounds of food, as well as $78,000 in donations for the Missoula Food Bank, but Tyler said Bozeman finished ahead by just a few thousands pounds.
"Four years ago, we only raised 4,000 pounds, and all of this is still going to feed a lot of people," Tyler said.