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Bobby Hauck was born a Grizzly.

He grew up a Grizzly, he graduated a Grizzly, and now he's guiding the Grizzlies.

There's no question how much the yearly football battle between Montana and Montana State means to the sixth-year head coach.

"It's like no other game we play," senior quarterback Cole Bergquist said. "Last week, as we were preparing to play Idaho State, you could tell he wanted to talk about MSU, and he knew he couldn't. But as soon as it was over, it was on to the Cats.

"The guy can barely talk about the rivalry without getting fired up and throwing out a few swear words."

Hauck is intense. You don't win 62 games in six seasons if you're not dedicated. But he learned at an early age on which side of the fence he would sat in this storied rivalry.

Hauck was born in Missoula but grew up in Big Timber, a town roughly 60 miles east of Bozeman.

A third-generation alumnus of Montana, he earned degrees in business and physical education in 1988, and then he served as a volunteer assistant coach with the Grizzlies as his brother, Tim, was establishing an All-America career as a safety at UM.

"There's no question where our loyalties were," Hauck said. "But we had a lot of fun with the rivalry growing up. I had several teachers that are now good friends that are MSU alums. We used to swap barbs the week of the game. It was all in good fun.

"Some of the best memories I have are listening to the game on the radio, shooting baskets in the backyard with Dad and Tim."

It may have been "all in good fun" back then, but these days, Hauck seethes at the thought - and the reality - of losing to the Bobcats.

In 2005, when MSU corralled the Grizzlies in a 16-6 win in Bozeman, Hauck sat at the postgame press conference with his elbows on the table, sunglasses on his head and with little to say.

"He has a strong sense of tradition," said Griz receiver Mark Mariani. "He's got a lot of passion for football and for this game in particular. We usually try to stay focused week to week, but this is a big week for the state of Montana. He's revved up, and we're all excited to play as well."

Hauck has done perhaps the best coaching of his career this season.

Montana graduated 22 seniors from last year's team, which went unbeaten in the regular season for just the fourth time in the history of the program.

This year was supposed to be a rough ride. It hasn't turned out that way.

"Bobby's so detail-oriented and is so disciplined, both for his team and his staff," said UM's athletic director, Jim O'Day. "He's very well-prepared and very well-read. He puts in a lot of work. I know all coaching staffs put in a lot of work, but it seems like this staff puts even more work than a lot of others.

"Nobody likes to lose, and I guarantee you Bobby hates losing."

As Montana's head coach, Hauck is 3-2 against the Bobcats, the team he loves to beat. But after losing two of their first three matchups against MSU, Hauck's Grizzlies have won the past two.

A victory Saturday would give the Grizzlies an 11-1 record and an at-large berth into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, which would extend the school's record postseason streak to 16 years.

Win or lose, this season has been a rewarding one for Hauck. He's had a front-row seat to see a young team grow up fast and become a contender when expectations weren't high.

"I told some people this summer that I thought it'd be a fun year because I thought we'd improve and get better each week," Hauck said. "I knew it'd be exciting and fun, and that's what it's been. We're still a young football team, but we've done a lot of good things."