2:05 PM ET, November 20, 2004
Washington Grizzly, Missoula, MT
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) -- As the clock ticked down on the 104th Brawl of the Wild Saturday, a University of Montana football fan held up a sign that read: Back to Normal.
The Montana Grizzlies had beaten Montana State 38-22 after having lost to their rivals in each of the past two seasons.
"This beats the hell out of last year," said UM coach Bobby Hauck.
Craig Ochs passed for 280 yards and two touchdowns and Lex Hilliard ran for 120 yards and two more scores as Montana clinched a share of the Big Sky Conference title. Montana has won or shared the league title for the past seven seasons.
No. 7 Montana (9-2, 6-1 Big Sky) earned the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs and will be playing the postseason for a I-AA record 12th consecutive year. They'll learn on Sunday who and where they will play.
Montana State (6-5, 4-3) lost its final three games of the season.
"I'm happy to see the season end," said MSU coach Mike Kramer, whose team struggled with kickoffs going out of bounds, short punts, missed field goals, dropped passes and a defense hampered by injuries.
"In three games we have had our guts ripped out on defense, we've been eviscerated," Kramer said. "Regardless of how the score was today, our defensive persona is gone. We have to rebuild it step-by-step, brick-by-brick."
Ochs' two touchdown passes went to Jefferson Heidelberger -- a 15-yarder in the first quarter and a 14-yarder late in the third that gave Montana a 31-16 lead. Heidelberger finished with nine catches for 131 yards while Levander Segars had eight catches for 106 yards.
Montana took a 21-7 lead on Hilliard's second touchdown with 6:06 left in the half.
The Bobcats got within 21-10 at halftime after Epipko King intercepted Ochs and E.J. Cochrane kicked a 27-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining.
MSU went 85 yards on the opening drive of the second half and Justin Domineck scored on a 2-yard run to pull MSU within 21-16 after Alan Saenz blocked the PAT.
The Grizzlies answered with a 22-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter, held MSU on downs and drove 48 yards in five plays to score on Heidelberger's second TD.
"I think for the most part this year we've been able to respond when teams got close," Ochs said. "Offensively, we have the attitude that we need a score on every drive."
On MSU's next possession, Cochrane missed a 39-yard field goal attempt.
"We feel good stopping them, holding them to field goals or field goal attempts," Hauck said.
Montana scored on a 33-yard run by J.R. Waller to make it 38-16 with 9:18 to play. Waller got the ball on the left side of the field and followed blockers into the right side of the end zone.
"I was just thinking first down," said Waller. "I saw everyone just start going this way."
Travis Lulay passed for 386 yards and a touchdown to Rick Gatewood, who had 13 catches for a school and Cat-Griz record 235 yards. Lulay was sacked five times and held to just one yard rushing. Gatewood scored MSU's final touchdown on a 2-yard run with 6:42 remaining.
Both teams seemed nervous at the start of the game, with MSU booting the opening kickoff out of bounds and UM getting called for a false start before any time ran off the clock.
Both teams punted on their first possession.
Montana opened its second drive with a 35-yard run by Hilliard, followed by runs of 5 and 13 yards for the sophomore who didn't play much a week earlier because he had been hospitalized with an infected spider bite on his leg.
He said the first run "felt pretty good. It gave us a little burst in our tempo." Hilliard finished with 25 carries for 120 yards.
The drive was capped with a 15-yard TD pass from Ochs to Heidelberger.
"I thought the second drive, when we went no huddle, that was good," Ochs said. "They get a lot of their defensive signals from the sidelines."
MSU's next drive ended with a 38-yard TD pass from Lulay to Gatewood on a fake punt.
"What happened was they had a good throw and a good catch," Hauck said. "He made a nice play. (Gatewood's) a good kid, he had a great game today."
Montana scored on its next drive to take a 14-7 lead when Hilliard dove into the end zone from 1-yard out.
A fumble by Ochs, recovered by MSU's Jonathan Molock, set up MSU's next scoring attempt, but Cochrane was wide right on a 47-yard field goal attempt.