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Bill Speltz: The play that swayed the rivalry was pure bliss for the Montana Grizzlies

Bill Speltz: The play that swayed the rivalry was pure bliss for the Montana Grizzlies

MISSOULA — You can't help but wonder how much careful consideration and planning went into that one, game-swaying play.

It wasn't just the six points that Montana snagged when senior quarterback Cam Humphrey hit true freshman running back Junior Bergen for a 74-yard touchdown pass on the second snap from scrimmage. It was the symbolic nature of the incident, with Montana State senior linebacker Troy Andersen getting fooled and failing to follow the sprinting Bergen up the middle on his route.

No one respects Andersen more than this sports scribe. He's smart and tough with NFL-caliber talent. More than once I've dubbed him a Griz Killer for his accomplishments in the Brawl rivalry, including spearheading a never-to-be-forgotten comeback win at quarterback in 2018.

On Saturday though, the football gods had something new and slightly cruel in store for the super-aggressive Andersen.

Nah, he wasn't to blame for the Bobcats' humbling 29-10 loss in Missoula. The score is not even that close if he's absent. But boy oh boy, that one pass, it's funny how a script can completely flip in a 120-year Brawl of the Wild saga that just keeps getting more fascinating every year.

Did Bergen's first receiving touchdown as a college player represent some sort of passing of the torch or is that a little too dramatic? After all, Montana State hadn't even touched the ball yet.

It's just the way it transpired that lives on in your memory. So poetic for a Montana program that endured four years of rivalry ridicule. So tragic for the Bobcats, with their seemingly invincible Brawl hero and the pride of Dillon, Andersen, left choking in the jet wash of an elusive speedster from Billings.

Once Montana had that touchdown lead, it leaned on its placekicker and a  defense that's special. Certainly it's the fastest D I've ever seen in Maroon & Silver, with a leader in defensive coordinator Kent Baer that probably deserves some looks as a head coach candidate.

Humphrey's well-timed, albeit a little wobbly, toss to Bergen was the one sparkling gem on a Saturday with lots of lumps of coal for both offenses. As a whole Humphrey was Humphrey, making some nice passes and doing a good job extending plays while also making mistakes from time to time.

The thing about Humphrey, though, is he looked like Dave Dickenson compared to whatever it was Montana State was trying to do with its quarterback, Matthew McKay. Watching McKay get rid of the ball when the Griz blitzed was like watching a kid react when you turn on the lights in the middle of the night.

In the end, Saturday was a hard lesson for Bobcats first-year head coach Brent Vigen. Yeah, yeah, he said all the right things leading up to Saturday's showdown. But late in the second quarter, he wore that same kind of look I wore when I missed the bus in middle school. The same kind of look Rob Ash wore when he coached the Cats in failed Brawl endeavors — bewilderment mixed with a little confusion and a bad case of indigestion.

Beyond Saturday, it's plain to see the Grizzlies are far better equipped to make a playoff run. They're solid in all three facets and they're probably going to get a week off here before playing their first FCS playoff game at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

The Cats, on the other hand, look like a team destined to lay another one of those second-round playoff eggs.

Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 15 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at


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