Do the math on the Oredigger-Bulldog rivalry

Do the math on the Oredigger-Bulldog rivalry

We have all seen the many faces of former Montana Tech football coach Bob Green.

There is, of course, the happy one that we see all the time. There’s also the somber one that I’ve unfortunately seen too many times after tough losses at Nelson Stadium in Helena.

My favorite Bob Green face is the whimsical look he makes when he impresses himself after coming up with a new “Greenism” on the spot.

A close second is the exaggerated face Green makes when he cannot understand why you do not understand what he easily understands.

The coach will hunch over and lean a little to the side. He’ll put his hands out to the side, palms up. He’ll tilt his head and hold his mouth open and stare at you.

It’s a look referees in the Frontier Conference have seen many times. So have players, fellow coaches, school officials, family members and, of course, sportswriters.

I got to see that face again Saturday before Montana Tech played Montana Western on the cow pasture that is Vigilante Field in Dillon.

A media member tweeted out earlier in the week that Saturday would be the 100th meeting between the two teams. Western and Tech went into the game tied at 49-49-1, the tweet said, and the rest of the media — present company included — ran with it.

The sports information departments from both schools also pushed the 100-game narrative, and the record between the teams was announced to the crowd just before kickoff.

Earlier in the week, I was researching the Billings Senior-Butte High rivalry that reached 100 games a few years ago, so the 100 number seemed legit. Until I saw Green.

“Do the math,” Green told me as he tilted over, stuck out his arms and held his mouth open for a long delay after each sentence. “I coached in 46 of them … Do the math.”

I’m no mathematician, but once I actually thought about it, I realized that the Bulldogs and Orediggers had to have played closer to 200 times than 100.

Unlike Butte High and Billings Senior, Montana Tech and Montana Western have played twice — at least — most seasons.

So, I looked back and found the source of the tweet that got the media and fans all nostalgic about the number 100. Michigan-football.com is a great site. It has the season records for every team along with the records of each team vs. each opponent.

Unfortunately, the website’s records for Montana Tech and Montana Western only go back as far as 1947. Montana Tech started playing football in the very early 1900s, so the website’s stats are short by nearly half a century.

Montana Tech and Montana Western have, indeed, played each other more than 100 times. Considerably more.

As much as we appreciate the stats by the website, incomplete records are a dangerous thing. If you do not have all the records, well, you do not have the records.

During Tech’s home game on Saturday, at some point you are probably going to hear the announcer proclaim that Oredigger senior Dion Williams just passed Davis Almanza as the school’s all-time leading receiver.

That might actually be true. Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure because the school’s record book is incomplete. There are so many great receivers who played at Montana Tech in the 1960s and ’70s whose records were never tabulated.

We know that Butte High and Butte Central football, basketball and track and field records are correct because historian Pat Kearney did the painstaking research to prove them.

Kearney was planning on doing the same for Tech’s records. Unfortunately he died before he could get to them.

The school should make sure that someone researches and provides complete records. Every school should do that.

The tweet about the 100th meeting, though, wasn’t sent because of the number 100. The media member was pointing out that the teams were so close over such a long period of time.

That really is remarkable.

Tech and Western were tied over their last 99 games, and that speaks volumes about one of the best rivalries in college football.

I would go as far as to say that the Bulldog-Oredigger football rivalry has consistently been the best in the NAIA.

Sure, Tech’s rivalry with Carroll College has been insanely fun, especially after Carroll started collecting national titles under head coach Mike Van Diest.

Currently, Tech’s rivalry with Southern Oregon has been come particularly nasty, too.

As Saturday showed us once again, however, the Western-Tech dogfight is still the best.

Once again, Oredigger fans assumed their team would roll to a win in Dillon. Once again, the Bulldogs ruined their day.

The Bulldogs have won five of the last six games against Tech in Dillon. That includes last year’s 42-35 shocker that knocked the Orediggers out of the Top 5.

This time, Western outscored Tech 26-0 in the fourth quarter to pull out an improbable 32-19 Homecoming win.

The Tech-Western rivalry has been taken up a notch by the Bulldogs in recent years, too. They see it as a meeting of the haves vs. the have nots.

One look at the playing service told you all you need to know about that.

While Tech plays in a stadium with an artificial surface that always provides perfect footing, the Bulldogs play on a field that — thanks to some rain throughout the day — was muddy and slick. The Vigilante Field grass could have used a mow about a month ago, and it looked like one of the local ranchers stored his cattle on the field the night before the game.

While Tech has a big Jumbotron for fans to see replays, Western’s biggest stadium improvement in recent years was the addition of an inflatable tunnel that looks like a Western helmet for the players to enter the stadium through.

We are, after all, not far removed from using Porta Potties as restrooms at Western games.

That is what happens when you have a school that turns out well-paid engineers playing against a school that turns out under-paid teachers.

That has put a chip on the shoulder of the Western football players. It is a genuine chip, too. It can’t be replicated by the standings or bulletin board. It is a chip most opponents could not truly understand.

That has also taken the rivalry to a new level, even if some fans on one side do not quite realize it.

Some of the best games of this century came when the Orediggers met the Bulldogs on Vigilante Field. Saturday’s game was one that we will remember for a long, long time.

Montana Western and Montana Tech stopped playing twice a year after the 2013 season, and that is a shame.

If nothing else, Saturday showed us that the Orediggers and Bulldogs playing 100 times since 1947 is not nearly enough.

Seriously, do the math.

— Bill Foley, who never could do the math, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. Check out his NFL picks on Thursdays.



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