Idaho Vandals

Former rival provides the welcoming committee for Idaho’s return to the Big Sky

Senior defensive back Dorian Clark celebrates with teammates during Idaho’s 56-10 victory over Western New Mexico University on Sept. 8 in Moscow.
Senior defensive back Dorian Clark celebrates with teammates during Idaho’s 56-10 victory over Western New Mexico University on Sept. 8 in Moscow. Courtesy of the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho football team went 0-5 against Boise State while Dan Hawkins was the Broncos’ coach from 2001 to 2005.

While Idaho might not have a good track record against Hawkins-led teams, Vandals coach Paul Petrino does.

The last time Hawkins and Petrino were on opposite sidelines, Petrino was the offensive coordinator for Louisville when it ended Boise State’s undefeated season with a 44-40 victory in the 2004 Liberty Bowl.

That could be a good omen for the Vandals (1-1) as they make their return to the Big Sky Conference against UC Davis (2-1) on Saturday in Davis, California. Kickoff is 5 p.m. MT, and the game will be televised by Eleven Sports and streamed live online on Pluto TV.

Hawkins is in his second season coaching the 21st-ranked Aggies.

“When I got the job (at Idaho), (Hawkins) just reached out to me and was a really good guy to me. I’ll always think the world of him for that. He’s a good person and a really good coach,” Petrino said during the Vandals’ weekly press conference. “... He’s got a lot of wisdom. There’s a lot of things that I like to just throw out questions about different things, and he’s always been very open. He’s helped me a lot in my profession.”

While there may be warm feelings between the two coaches, those feelings won’t translate on the field.

Saturday will mark Idaho’s first Big Sky game since Nov. 18, 1995, and the Vandals hope to make a statement by knocking off an Aggies team that held its own in a 30-10 loss to ninth-ranked Stanford last weekend.

“They’re one of the best teams in the conference, and we’re playing them on the road, so it’s a big game,” Petrino said.

The Aggies’ 360 passing yards per game ranks No. 4 in the nation among FCS teams, and junior Jake Maier is second among FCS quarterbacks with 942 passing yards through three games.

“UC Davis, from what we’re seeing, might be one of our toughest conference games, so we’re looking at this as this is the first game in conference, and we’ve got to open up with a bang,” said Idaho center Conner Vrba, a Rocky Mountain High graduate.

“We’ve been practicing hard. Our bodies are feeling good. Everyone’s getting healthy. We’ve learned a lot. It’s nice having this much time to go over the different blitzes and schemes they do.”

The Vandals had a bye last week, giving them extra time to prepare for only the second meeting in history between the two programs. Idaho beat UC Davis 44-14 on Oct. 11, 1997, when the Aggies were at the Division II level.

Now both teams are members of the Big Sky, and Idaho is looking to build on its storied history in the league. The Vandals were charter members of the Big Sky from 1963 to 1995, winning eight conference titles and qualifying for the national playoffs 11 times in their final 14 years at the then-Division I-AA level.

Players are ready to replicate that success.

“There’s been a lot of energy. That’s something that I feel like we were missing a little bit last year,” Vrba said. “We didn’t always quite have that energy and that edge. This year with the team, everyone’s got a lot more energy. Everyone’s out there having fun. Everyone’s flying around during practice and playing hard.

“I feel like that’s going to be the key to us having a lot more successful season than last year.”

BYU switches gears against McNeese State

BYU embraced the underdog role in preparation for its upset win against then-No. 6 Wisconsin last week.

Now the 25th-ranked Cougars (2-1) have the target on their backs against McNeese State (3-0) on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. Kickoff is 4 p.m. MT on ESPN3 and BYUtv.

The Cowboys are one of the top programs in the FCS and are currently ranked No. 9 in the STATS media poll and No. 10 in the AFCA coaches poll.

But over the last 30 years, BYU is 11-0 against programs from the FCS.

Big Sky opener historically hard on Bengals

Idaho State has won only four of its Big Sky Conference openers in the last 20 years.

But the Bengals (1-1) will try to buck that trend when they start league play at North Dakota (2-1) at 3 p.m. MT on Saturday.

North Dakota leads the series with Idaho State 5-1, with the Bengals’ only win coming in 2015.

C of I hosts Rocky Mountain

After back-to-back road games and four straight losses to start the 2018 season, the College of Idaho looks to get back in the win column in the comforts of Simplot Stadium in Caldwell.

The Yotes (0-4, 0-3 Frontier Conference) host No. 23 Rocky Mountain (2-2, 1-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday in a game that will feature a combined 43 players from Idaho high schools.

Outside of the 22 Idaho products on the Yotes’ roster, Rocky Mountain boasts the most players from the Gem State of any school in the Frontier Conference with 21.

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