The Great Divide Trophy rests patiently in the Bobcat football office. Its heavy metal football sits atop the sculpture, shining subtly under the florescent light. For the last year, the trophy has been held proudly in Bozeman, constantly touched, photographed and admired the proud MSU community in honor of Bobcat Football’s 11-2 season in 2012. This year the resting place of the trophy for 2014 will be determined Saturday afternoon. This is Cat/Griz week.
Montana State (7-4, 5-2) comes into this weekend’s matchup with heavy hearts following a jaw dropping loss to Southern Utah University. Over in Missoula, the Grizzlies (9-2, 5-2), are all smiles, more than likely securing a playoff spot with their 42-6 blowout win against Weber State.
Last year saw the Bobcats victorious, defeating UM 16-7 in Missoula. The Grizzlies fell to a 5-6 record, their first losing season since 1986.
The history of the rivalry dates back to 1897, when the Bobcats fell 18-6. Montana leads the series 69-37-5, but that margin is considerably smaller since Montana State joined the NCAA in 1957. Since then, UM leads the series 29-26.
It seems regardless of how poorly or well either team does during the season, MSU and UM match the others’ playing level, making for an exciting game. UM senior quarterback Jordan Johnson and Montana State senior quarterback DeNarius McGhee have had outstanding numbers in their games against each other. Johnson has thrown 15-31 for 164 yards and a pair of touchdowns. McGhee has thrown 43-98 for a whopping 556 yards and four touchdowns. Both players know this game may very well be their last if they do not secure a playoff spot. Both McGhee and Johnson have had fantastic senior years.
This year Johnson has completed 173 of 305 for 2749 yards and 27 touchdowns and is a key player to watch. He returned to the active roster this year following an accusation of sexual assault in 2012, he was later acquitted of all charges. He threw for five touchdowns in his game against North Dakota this season and has rushed for 106 yards.
McGhee has completed 158 of 232 for 1933 yards and only eight touchdowns this year. He has rushed 65 times for 196 yards. Against Weber State, McGhee threw for three touchdowns, his highest this season.
MSU senior running back Cody Kirk has been unstoppable this season, rushing for 1039 yards on 206 carries. He has 47 career touchdowns, 18 of those being this year. His 47 score-total is an all-time best in Montana State history, and his five rushing touchdowns against North Dakota, all before halftime, contributed to his best game this season.
Montana senior running back Jordan Canada is having a great final season, rushing for 887 yards on 175 attempts and a total of 14 touchdowns. Canada scored four touchdowns against Sacramento State this season.
No matter what the statistics say, both the Bobcats and the Grizzlies will battle until the final whistle to determine who will become the 2013 Great Divide Champions. Expect a brutal, hard hitting game for all 60 minutes, with both teams vying for victory. It’s Cat/Griz week: the best weekend of the year.
Keys of the Game
1. The Bobcats need to get the last three games out of their minds; dwelling on a loss guarantees their focus will not be on the game at hand
2. The MSU defense must contain UM quarterback Jordan Johnson. If he gets control of the game, he will destroy our defense with his speed, pass accuracy and ability to scramble. They must also keep pressure on the receivers.
3. The offense has to stop being so conservative with the clock. The last two games have been a wakeup call we need to go into the locker room with momentum at halftime.
4. Special teams needs accuracy and focus.
5. Finally, the Cats must think of the score as 0-0 the entire game. This is just another home game; don’t worry about playoffs.