The 119th rendition of the fiercest college football rivalry in the West will feature more native Montanans playing for the Bobcats and Grizzlies and elevated rewards for the winner of the showdown.
For the first time several years, close to 100 Treasure State products will suit up for the rivalry game between Montana and Montana State. The No. 8 Bobcats feature 46 Montana products on its roster. No. 3 Montana features 48 in-state athletes.
The game also has postseason amifications for both teams for the first time 2014, the last time Montana and Montana State each qualified for the FCS Playoffs in the same season.
The Bobcats enter the game with a 8-3 record that includes a 5-2 mark in Big Sky Conference play. Win or lose, MSU will likely make a second straight playoff appearance.
The Bobcats have also won three straight games against the Griz for the first time since 1983 until 1985. Montana started “The Streak” the following season, defeating MSU 16 straight times. Since MSU won in Missoula in 2002 to end “The Streak”, Montana has captured the Great Divide Trophy nine times and Montana State has won eight rivalry contests.
The recent Bobcat winning streak has coincided with denying Montana playoff berths three years in a row. But the Griz don’t have to worry about being shut out of the postseason again. UM brings a 9-2 record into the game, including a 6-1 Big Sky mark that gives the Griz a chance to claim their first official conference title since 2009.
When Hauck took over, Montana’s roster featured 29 in-state players. He has added nearly 20, including his son Robby who lists his hometown as Missoula despite going to high school in San Diego.
Montana State also has one of its highest number of in-state products in Choate’s four years. The 2016 Bobcats had 52 Montana kids while the 2017 team had 46 and the 2018 team featured 45. Choate has had more Montana players on his roster than the Griz have in each of the last four rivalry matchups against UM, until this season.
MSU’s starting lineup has featured 17 Treasure State players at one point or another this season. Montana has started 13 in-state players.
Between the two rosters combined, a total of 55 players (30 for UM, 25 for MSU) played Class AA football in high school. A total of 18 players played in Class A, including 12 for Montana State. A total of 15 players cut their teeth in the Class B ranks, including eight who play for Montana. And a total of five players prepped in the Class C ranks, including three for the Griz.
Missoula is the only city with double-digit representation. A total of 16 players hail from the Garden City, including Hauck and 11 others who chose the Griz. Missoula Sentinel has seven alums playing on Saturday while Missoula Big Sky has five. Missoula Loyola has two players on the Grizzlies and one on the Bobcats.
Bozeman High and Kalispell Glacier have the highest representations of any school with alums playing Saturday. Nine former Hawks, including seven who stayed home to play for the Bobcats, will suit up. Kalispell Glacier also has nine alums competing, including five who play for Montana State.
Helena has 11 representatives, including six Capital High products that play for the Griz and one for the ‘Cats. Three of the four players from Helena High are Bobcats.
Billings, Montana’s largest city, has 10 representatives from the Class AA ranks, including five from Billings West and four former Golden Bears who play for the Grizzlies. Billings Senior has a pair of players on each side. MSU tight end Ryan Davis is the lone representative from Billings Skyview. Three players, all Bobcats, come from Billings Central
Four players hail from Great Falls, including two who play at MSU. That’s just one more than hail from Billings Central and Dillon (all Bobcats) and the same number as Whitefish. Four former Bulldogs are on the rosters, including three who play at UM.
Other Class A towns like Belgrade have two Bobcat reps while Butte has a pair of natives, one on each team, one from Butte High (UM offensive linemen Dylan Cook) and one from Butte Central (Bobcat defensive end Marcus Ferriter).
Huntley Project, Bigfork and Boulder are the only Class B school with two players in the game. Both former Red Devils play for the Bobcats while one Bobcat and Griz each hail from Jefferson County High in Boulder and the Flathead County (Bigfork), respectively.
Sidney, Stevensville and Polson round out the Class A towns with all three playing for the Griz. Anaconda, Big Timber, Choteau, Eureka, Fairfield, Townsend, Whitehall, Sunburst, White Sulphur Springs, Savage and Valier each have a native son representing in one of the oldest rivalries in college football.
Here’s a look the 48 Montana products on the UM roster headed into the 119th rendition of the fierce rivalry in Bozeman on Saturday afternoon.
Troy Andersen, quarterback/running back/linebacker, junior, Dillon — The superlatives are running out for Montana State’s diverse, tough, athletic, transcendent two-way talent. Last season, Andersen moved to quarterback after winning Big Sky Freshman of the Year as a running back and linebacker. All he did was set the league’ single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,421 and set Montana State’s single-season record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 21.
Andersen has battled injuries throughout the entire calendar year of 2019, missing spring football after having off-season shoulder surgery and battling an ailing ankle since the first month of the season. Even though he’s never been close to 100 percent, Andersen is still one of the most electrifying and mystifying players in America.
He has scored a touchdown and notched a tackle for loss in four of the last five games. He is currently tied for fifth in the league with 6.5 sacks and his 11.5 tackles for loss. He also leads the Bobcats with seven rushing touchdowns.
Brayden Konkol, safety, fifth-year senior, Belgrade — Konkol makes no bones about the fact that he LOVES the rivalry game. He has consistently talked smack on Twitter throughout the last three years, reminding anyone that will listen that MSU has won the Great Divide Trophy three years in a row.
Konkol had his own coming out party at Washington-Grizzly Stadium as a freshman in 2016. He smashed Montana’s Mr. Electricity, slot receiver Jerry Louie-McGee twice to set the tone for a 24-17 MSU upset win.
In 2017, Konkol was a maniac, rolling up 16 tackles and sharing a sack as Montana State won for the first time in Bozeman in more than a decade, 31-23. Last season, Konkol had seven tackles and a tackle for loss as part of a stalwart defensive effort that helped MSU rally from a 22-0 deficit in a 29-25 victory.
This season, Konkol might’ve played his best game last week, totaling a team-high seven tackles and snaring his first pick of the season in a 27-17 win over UC Davis. Konkol has 51 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and six pass breakups as a senior.
Mitch Brott, offensive tackle, fifth-year senior, Billings West — Coming out of Billings West, Brott received just a partial scholarship from Montana State. He has worn that chip on his shoulder brashly, transforming into a real deal NFL prospect.
Brott enters Saturday’s rivalry game with 45 consecutive starts on a Bobcat offensive line that has paved the way for several historic rushing seasons. The Bobcats are leading the Big Sky in rushing yards per game for the second time in the seasons. The team also leads the league by allowing just one sack per game.
The 6-foot-6, 295-pounder was a second-team All-Big Sky selection last season and is an All-American candidate as a fifth-year senior captain for the Bobcats.
Derek Marks, defensive tackle, fifth-year senior, Belgrade — Marks has never been big enough. But he’s always been tough enough, smart enough and consistent enough on the way to etching a memorable career for his (nearly) hometown team.
The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder was thrust into duty as a true freshman in 2016 and led the Bobcats in sacks, including 1.5 sacks against the Griz. As a sophomore, he was a utility man who rotated up and down the front, notching 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
He played a similar role last season, rolling up five tackles for loss and two sacks. But perhaps the most memorable moment of Marks’ career came when Chase Benson blew up Montana’s offensive line, Tucker Yates and Grant Collins crushed Adam Eastwood, forcing fumble on the goal line that Marks recovered with eight seconds left to secure one of the most epic wins in the history of the rivalry.
As a senior, Marks has moved to defensive tackle full time and has continued excelling. He does not have a sack (the Bobcats have 27) but he does have 11 tackles for loss among his 40 tackles.
Logan Jones, running back, fifth-year senior, Kalispell Glacier — Montana State could not keep the explosive mighty mite off the field as a true freshman in 2015. He took a kick 100 yards for a touchdown at Portland State to earn All-Big Sky honors.
But he largely toiled in a jam-packed MSU backfield. He rushed for 251 yards combined by the end of his junior year. Last season, Jones missed the first eight games. He returned for the final four games of the regular season, scoring three touchdowns, including one against Montana.
The 5-foot-7, 186-pounder shut it down before the playoffs, using a new NCAA rule that allows the preservation of a redshirt if an athlete plays in four games or less.
In his fifth year, Jones has taken full advantage. He is averaging 6.9 yards per carry, leads the Bobcats with 667 yards and ha scored seven total touchdowns.
Josh Hill, linebacker, fifth-year senior, Kalispell Glacier — Hill, a former Class AA Defensive Player of the Year, earned Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week in his first rivalry game start by notching eight tackles, one tackle for loss and a pick in MSU’s 2016 win.
In 2017, he rolled up six tackles and a tackle for loss. In 2018, he missed the game, just like all the other games last season save MSU’s playoff game at North Dakota State.
The MSU coaching staff have slow played Hill so far this season up until the last month. Since then, the Bobcats have unleashed the active, aggressive 5-foot-11, 215-pound tackling machine on the rest of the league.
This month, Hill had eight tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble against Southern Utah. Hill had 10 tackles and two tackles for loss against Northern Colorado. And he had six tackles, all solo, against UC Davis last week.
Chase Benson, defensive tackle, junior, Helena High — Benson gets less headlines and fields less media requests for interviews than the rest of Montana State’s defensive linemen the last two years among a group of charismatic characters.
But the MSU coaching staff have praised Benson all season. His ability to destroy the interior of opposing offensive lines has been a key in MSU piling up 84 tackles for loss. Benson has four of those tackles for loss, including three sacks among his 47 total tackles.
Lane Sumner, running back, redshirt freshman, Huntley Project — The former Class B state sprinting champion has never actually started a game for the Bobcats.
But he has played a pivotal role in helping MSU lead the league in rushing despite the limited availability of Andersen, starting running back Isaiah Ifanse, and Wildcat QB/receiver Travis Jonsen, Sumner has been crucial.
Sumner is averaging 8.1 yards per carry and has rushed for 349 yards total. He rushed for 1143 yards and two touchdowns against Norfolk State, 90 yards and two touchdowns against Southern Utah and 72 yards with a score against Northern Colorado. He has five of MSU’s 33 rushing touchdowns.
Callahan O’Reilly, inside linebacker, sophomore, Bozeman — The former high school quarterback switched to linebacker, endured a learning curve, and is one of Montana State’s most improved players.
O’Reilly is Montana State’s leading tackler this season. He rotated pretty heavily the first five games of the season. But he was the go-to Mike linebacker against Cal Poly’s triple option, wracking up a career-high 16 tackles. He had 11 tackles each of the next two weeks.
He has 66 total tackles, a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss this season.
Jered Padmos, punter, senior, Boulder — Padmos, a former three-sport athlete from Jefferson County High, has been a consistent and unsung hero for the Bobcats the last four years.
Over his first three seasons, he gave up less than two yards per return on 178 punts. And this season, he is averaging a career-high 45 yards per punt. He has 16 punts over 50 yards, a long of 76 and has pinned opponents inside the 20 12 times. Padmos is again giving up 1.9 yards per punt return.
Michael Jobman, linebacker, junior, Huntley Project — Jobman played on the edge early in his career before moving to inside linebacker last season. He finished third on the team with 73 tackles.
Before injuring his knee about a month ago, Choate said Jobman was playing his best football. He missed five weeks after rolling up a career-high 13 tackles against Cal Poly but returned to the lineup, at least on the participation report, last week. Jobman has 39 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble this season.
Denver Krone, center, junior, Choteau — The former walk-on from Augusta who prepped at Choteau bounced back from a serious knee injury that nearly ended his career to start the first three games of this season. He also started Montana State’s conference opener against NAU.
Krone has consistently rotated on the interior of MSU’s offensive line, start or not, spelling Zach Redd or bumping Redd to left guard.
Marcus Ferriter, defensive lineman, Butte Central — Ferriter has worn the stamp as MSU’s lone Mining City product with great pride during his five-year career.
The former Class A Defensive MVP redshirted. Like Marks, because of an insane number of injuries on the MSU defensive front in Choate’s first fall camp, Ferriter was thrust into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman.
Ferriter compiled 19 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack his first year. He had 10 tackles his sophomoreyear. He barely played as a junior. But his perseverance has paid off. He has 13 tackles and a sack this season and has played a significant role on a defensive line that rolls players through the game.
Jake Sessions, offensive tackle, junior, Colstrip — Against Southern Utah, starting right tackle Connor Wood went down with a knee injury. Sessions entered the game and played well.
Sessions pushed Taylor Tuisosopo for the starting left guard spot all off-season. He brings versatility and depth because he can also play tackle. He started at right tackle each of the last two weeks in place of Wood, who could return before the end of this season.
Ryan Davis, tight end, junior, Billings Skyview — Because of his toughness and aptitude, Davis played as a true freshman. The family legacy player — his oldest brother, Leo, was a starting offensive tackle at MSU while Stephen, played hoops for the Bobcats and Matt played football for a few years — has been a key cog in Montana State’s league-leading rushing attack.
The lone Billings Skyview product in the game is still awaiting his first catch. But he has contributed heavily on special teams and as an in-line blocker the last three seasons.
Nolan Askelson, inside linebacker, redshirt freshman, Billings Senior — The former Class AA Defensive Player of the Year won a starting job in fall camp.
He has rotated pretty frequently but has been solid, notching 29 tackles and a tackle for loss.
Lance McCutcheon, wide receiver, junior, Bozeman — The local product caught passes of 59 and 65 yards his true freshman yard among his three catches. Last year he caught 15 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown, including a 10-yard catch against the Griz.
McCutcheon has caught 11 passes for 106 yards this season, including four for 39 against Cal Poly and three for 44 against Southern Utah.
Kyle Finch, Buck end/long snapper, junior, Dillon — Over the last two seasons as a depth guy, Finch has notched 17 tackles and a tackle for loss.
Walker Cozzie, inside linebacker, fifth-year senior, Helena Capital — Cozzie has started when called upon and performed well in those roles. He had 20 tackles last season and has eight tackles in four games this campaign.
Byron Rollins, defensive lineman, sophomore, Missoula Sentinel — Rollins sat in no-mans land early this season when it came to the MSU travel roster. But once MSU decided to redshirt junior college transfer Tyson Regimbal, Rollins has played about 20 plays per game this month.
The 2015 MSU recruit who skipped two years of eligibility burning has played in three games and has four tackles this season.
R.J. Fitzgerald, fullback, sophomore, Dillon — Like Ryan Davis, Fitzgerald does not show up in the stat column. But he has been a welcome addition as a blocker in the hole for a rushing attack that leads the Big Sky.
He has four tackles on special teams this season.
Mark Estes, wide receiver, redshirt freshman, Kalispell Glacier — Estes, a former state champion at the Class C and Class AA levels in track and field, rose to the occasion in the only opportunity in his career thus far.
With a collection of MSU offensive standouts banged up, Estes had two catches for 24 yards and rushed once for 25 yards against North Dakota. Two weeks ago against Northern Colorado, the former Drummond product rushed three times for 11 yards.
Jacob Hadley, tight end, junior, Billings Central — Hadley has been an athlete filled with diverse potential since he arrived at Montana State. The high school corner and wide receiver started his MSU career as a safety, then moved to Sam linebacker, then moved to Buck end.
But a season-ending knee injury in the spring leading up to the 2017 season has hindered him since. He has battled other nagging injuries ever since. Last week, in his fourth game this season, he caught his first career pass for an eight-yard gain.
Karl Tucker II, running back, senior, Great Falls CMR — Tucker played right away as a true freshman, serving as a perimeter blocker for an offense that struggled to throw the ball and as a special teams stalwart.
Last year, he switched to running back but served mostly as a personal protector instead of a ball carrier. He had seven carries for 21 yards.
This season, Tucker carried the ball eight times for 25 yards and his first career touchdown against Southeast Missouri State before suffering an injury. He will take a redshirt and return for a fifth year next season.
TREASURE STATE NATIVES
Luke May, safety, junior, Whitefish
Tadan Gilman, linebacker, sophomore, Kalispell Glacier
Keaton Anderson, safety, sophomore, Billings Senior
Peyton Hanser, wide receiver, sophomore, Billings Central
Jarrett Kessler, tight end, sophomore, Kalispell Glacier
Jory Choate, linebacker, redshirt freshman, Bozeman
Logan Kleinhans, wide receiver, redshirt freshman, Bozeman
Rylan Wilcox, defensive end, redshirt freshman, Missoula Big Sky
Joey McElroy, offensive lineman, redshirt freshman, Missoula Loyola
Treyton Pickering, tight end, redshirt freshman, Sunburst
Rylan Ortt, safety, redshirting, Missoula Sentinel
Tanner Trafton, wide receiver, redshirting, Lewistown
Blake Thelen, quarterback, redshirting, Great Falls High
Ryan Lonergan, tight end, redshirting, Bozeman
Joe Olson, running back, redshirting, Bozeman
Logan Gilliard, tight end, redshirting, Bigfork
Alex Johnson, linebacker, redshirting, Helena High
Justus Perkins, offensive line, redshirting, Bozeman
Holden Sampson, offensive line, redshirting, Helena High
Jack Galt, linebacker, redshirting, White Sulphur Springs
Marcus Wehr, defensive end, redshirting, Billings Central
Ethan Bullock, tight end, redshirting, Big Timber
Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.