MISSOULA — It's been quite the turnaround for the Montana Grizzlies (9-1, 6-1 Big Sky Conference), whose start of the season was rocky but has turned into a campaign on the doorstep of being a top two or three seed in the FCS playoffs, while also vying for the Big Sky Conference outright regular-season championship when they take on rival Montana State on Saturday in the 122nd Brawl of the Wild in Missoula.
Montana's non-conference season started with a win over Butler as the Grizzlies showcased their new quarterbacks in Clifton McDowell and Sam Vidlak.
The Griz hit the road for a blowout win at Utah Tech, and followed that with a night game and record attendance in blackout uniforms as they squeaked past reigning NCAA Division II champ Ferris State to start the year 3-0.
But disaster struck Montana in Flagstaff, Ariz., as the Griz fell to Northern Arizona to begin Big Sky play, and the soul-searching began.
From there, the Grizzlies got back on track as McDowell took the reins of the offense officially against Idaho State, and UM got back in the win column.
After that, the Griz began to turn things around and morph into the team they are today as they defeated UC Davis on the road in a ranked matchup, before hitting the road again to take on then-No. 3 Idaho, where Montana put the FCS world on notice with a statement win over the Vandals to reclaim the Little Brown Stein, as the offense began humming while the Griz defense began causing fits for opponents once again.
A win over Northern Colorado was followed by another top-10 matchup against Sacramento State, and under the lights the Grizzlies rolled past the Hornets as records fell, including the longest touchdown in program history, while Bobby Hauck became the all-time winningeset coach in Big Sky Conference history.
That was followed by a win over Portland State this past weekend on the road, and all of that all leads up to this moment as the Grizzlies get set to take on their fierce in-state rival in the first top-5 clash between these two schools, in a game that has massive implications, and will be a meeting that will have Montanans talking for years to come.