The Ducks are a touchdown or two away from playing for the national title.

First up was Friday’s road game at Arizona. Not an easy task, but doable.

Then, here comes the Civil War. What fun it would be for the Beavers to play the role of spoilers. There is some payback due as the Ducks kept the Beavs out of the Rose Bowl last year.

War it will be. And fans across the state will be hanging out in orange and green loudly cheering on their teams.

The same intensity can be found in other football rivalries across the country. We know of one Florida State Seminole daughter who almost disowned her brother when he became a U of Florida Gator. “I no longer have a brother,” she told one sympathetic friend.

She proclaimed her favorite teams as Florida State and whoever is playing the Gators.

The Iron Bowl in Alabama where ag school Auburn takes on the Crimson Tide of U of A is another bitter contest. UCLA vs USC or Stanford vs California and the Apple Cup up north where the Huskies take on the Cougars fall into this same category.

Perhaps nothing, however, showed more fan dedication than the 110th “Brawl of the Wild” played last Saturday in Missoula.

The storm that hit Umatilla and Morrow counties on Monday and Tuesday had already found Montana by game time.

We sat in the stands amid 26,000 other wild and dedicated fans of the University of Montana Grizzlies. Perhaps 5,000 of the crowd favored the Bobcats of  Montana State decked out in blue and gold.

A little snow. No problem. This is Montana and this is the Cat-Griz game.

As the kickoff flew high into the air, winds of 30 mph sent the ball soaring down the field on a blast of driving snow.

A win by Montana State would give the school its first win in Missoula in years and years as well as a conference title. A loss for Montana ended the season short of a playoff bid for the first time in 18 years. The Griz have won two national titles at the Football Championship (1-AA) level during that time and finished second twice.

Let’s see, six layers on the top including down vest and coat. Two stocking hats.  Five layers below and a Griz blanket to wrap up in. Down mountain climbing mittens.

That did the trick, except when the wind gust hit 35 mph and changed directions to swirl snow in the face.

These kind of winds come out of the east across the continential divide and through what is known as Hellgate Canyon into Missoula.

The people-watching of the day focused on finding who had the best winter outfit. A man with a Russian hat and full down camouflage outfit won my vote.

Meanwhile, a sweet little quarterback from Texas was powering the Cats down the field. While a tough running back from a small Montana town well known for eight-man football was on his way to almost tying the all-time UM rushing record.

How a Texan ever learned to throw a ball in a blizzard is hard to understand. But he did.

Montana fumbled a couple of times. Its quarterback, a former Duck named Justin Roper who grew up in Georgia, threw an interception.

One final Hail Mary pass from the 40 as time expired sent the hardy Cat fans into a frenzy with a 21-16 victory.

Let’s hope the weather is a little kinder when the Ducks and Beavers take to the field. Ducks, after all, like water. And Beavers have a hard time damming up ice flows.

Still, there is nothing like a college in-state rivalry. Even if the Griz did suffer a bitter cold defeat.

— Tom Brown

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