BOZEMAN — The stakes for the 122nd football battle between No. 4 Montana State and No. 3 Montana may be higher than ever before. On the line for both teams are the outright Big Sky Conference championship and, potentially, home field advantage throughout the FCS playoffs.
But according to Montana State captain and linebacker Nolan Askleson, "We don't need any extra motivation for this one."
Askelson dons MSU's legacy No. 41 every Saturday when he takes the field for the Bobcats. The number, given to one Montana native every season, represents the Treasure State's status as the 41st state admitted to the union.
It also pays homage to the school's 1941 football team which was almost entirely lost during World War II.
Askelson noted in the team's weekly press conference how the night prior he watched Miracle in Missoula, a documentary about the comeback win for Montana State over Montana in 2018.
Askelson repeated a sentiment to the media that was coined by Dillon native, former MSU standout and now Atlanta Falcons linebacker Troy Andersen in the documentary.
"The people in Montana remember every single freaking play in these Cat-Griz games man, so to go out there and make plays in this game, that’s really how you leave a legacy," Askleson said.
It embodies what this game means to the Treasure State and to players like Askelson and Andersen.
It's true, too. The games in November are the ones you remember, and the Brawl of the Wild is on the top of the list for MSU. Its meaning and importance is something that is known and felt throughout the locker room.
"We have 40-plus guys in our locker room that are from Montana, and my teammates mean a lot to me, so if that means a lot to them it means a lot to me," Bobcats quarterback Sean Chambers explained. "And, I want to go out there and give my best and lay it all out on the line for teammates.
"This game is everything to them growing up and it’s everything to them playing in, so it means a lot to me."
Bobcats coach Brent Vigen reflected a similar sentiment.
"No matter where you come from in our state, you’re on one side or the other, or maybe you’re a person who moved here," Vigen said. "That’s maybe the third element. So, the extension of who we are playing for is evident."
It’s not only who they are playing for but what they are playing for this year, as well: a conference title. One they will be taking away from the Griz simultaneously with a win.
"I know on our pyramid we have ‘Win the Sky and Own the State,’ right?" Chambers said. "So, we can do two of those things. Check off two of those things this weekend. So, I know that we’re going to prepare to do that and accomplish those two things on our pyramid."
"This game being the last game of the year, you want to be playing for a conference title," Vigen said. "You certainly want to be playing for how the playoffs are going to shake out. So yeah, for three years into it, all three years to have it come down to this Saturday, that’s what we’re working for."
How they’ve achieved the right to control their own destiny another season is through their work ethic.
"I like to talk about ‘Blue Collar, Gold Standard,’" Askelson said. "That blue collar nature of Montana, do the dirty work, do the hard work. You know, do whatever you've got to do to get your job done. And that gold standard of everything we do, doing it to the best of your ability."
The team is also using the experience of their four top-ten road games they've already played to prepare them for the atmosphere of their fifth at Washington-Grizzly Stadium on Saturday. The game kicks off at 12 p.m. on Montana Television Network.