MISSOULA — Remember “The Streak” — Montana’s 16-game winning streak against in-state rival Montana State from 1986-2001?
The Griz are getting close to matching a similar level of sustained success against Idaho State, which they’ll play at 1 p.m. Saturday in their homecoming game at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Montana has won 12 consecutive games against the Bengals dating back to 2004. Two games were decided by two points and the 2015 game needed overtime, but the average margin of victory has been 16.7 points.
Despite the long winning streak, Montana and Idaho State — both original members of the Big Sky Conference — have played just three time in the past six seasons because of the expanded 13-team league. They had played every season during Griz coach Bobby Hauck’s previous stint at Montana when the league was smaller and rivalries were more intense.
“I always cringe at the term ‘rival,’” Hauck said, “because we have one with some add-ons. But the traditional, old, long-time Big Sky schools, we love playing each other. I wish we’d play each other every year. I think that’s how it ought to be.”
The last time the Griz lost to the Bengals was 2003, a 43-40 double-overtime loss in Hauck’s first season of his previous tenure at Montana. Current Idaho State head coach Rob Phenicie was Montana’s offensive coordinator at that time.
Phenicie’s coaching staff at Idaho State now includes former Griz wide receiver Mike Ferriter, who played under Hauck and helped extend the streak. Ferriter is now the Bengals’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Phenicie, in his third year as the head coach, has the Bengals at 2-2 overall, 2-1 against FCS teams and 1-0 in league play coming into this week’s game against the eighth-ranked Grizzlies. They went 6-5 last year, posting just their second winning season since 2004, when Montana’s win streak over them began.
“I think they’re extremely well coached. They’ve done an amazing job there,” Hauck said. “It’s historically been a place where it’s been a little up and down, and these guys have done a really nice job coaching there.”
Montana's home winning streak over Idaho State extends longer than the stretch of 12 consecutive wins. The Griz have won 18 consecutive home games against the Bengals, whose last win in the Garden City came in 1983, a 31-17 victory.
Montana has never lost to Idaho State inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium, which was opened in 1986. The Griz have won all 17 games played in Wa-Griz. In fact, Montana's first game inside the new stadium was a 38-31 win over Idaho State.
Since the construction of the stadium, Montana has gone 29-4 in its homecoming games. The Griz are 65-33-1 all-time on homecoming weekend.
"It's good having everybody come back," Montana junior linebacker Jace Lewis said of homecoming. "I know we do the pep rally on Friday. That's always fun, too. It's a fun week, but your focus is strictly on Saturday, so you just got to try to treat it like every week."
Montana leads Idaho State, 46-13, in the all-time series, which began in 1921.
A win would move Montana to 5-1 on the season. The last time the Griz started 5-1 or better through six games was 2016, when they began 5-1.
They could also move to 2-0 in league play heading into their bye week after throttling then-No. 4 UC Davis on the road last week, 45-20.
"We came out of that game feeling pretty good," Lewis said. "But like coach Hauck said, we're 1-0 in the conference, and that's the biggest thing right now for us."