Idaho has hosted quality teams in the Kibbie Dome in recent years — Nevada with Colin Kaepernick, Boise State with Kellen Moore, the 2007 Hawaii team that went to the Sugar Bowl. But each of those opponents played in Moscow as fellow members of the Western Athletic Conference.
So when was the last time a nonconference foe with the bona fides of Northern Illinois -- which will meet Idaho on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Vandals' home opener -- came to the Kibbie Dome? We explore that question below and give a season ticket update.
Dave Doeren quietly built a solid program in suburban Chicago before taking the North Carolina State job after the regular season last year. And the Huskies' success has continued in early 2013. Consider NIU’s resume:
- It's No. 30 in the AP and USA Today polls.
- Its last two games were against Florida State in the Orange Bowl (a 31-10 loss) and at Iowa to start this season (a 30-27 win). Since the start of 2010, NIU is 35-8.
- The Huskies hold the longest home winning streak in the nation, at 21 games. The last team to beat the Huskies at their stadium: Idaho in 2009.
- Last year, NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch became the first quarterback in FBS history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more 1,500 yards in a single season. NIU, by the way, has a page on its website devoted to Lynch’s Heisman Trophy candidacy that includes a video segment called “Lunch with Lynch.”
Going back through the season-by-season results, it’s hard to find an out-of-conference team of NIU’s caliber that has traveled to play the Vandals in Moscow -- at least since UI joined the WAC in 2005. (It's worth mentioning that since Idaho is an independent this year, all of its opponents qualify as nonconference games.)
In its pre-WAC days, Idaho hosted Boise State in 2001 (at Martin Stadium in Pullman) and in 2003 (at the Dome). The Vandals were part of the Sun Belt then, so the Broncos were a nonconference foe. And in ’03, BSU went 13-1 team and won the Fort Worth Bowl.
That 2003 Boise State team is probably the best answer to our question. It was ranked 16th in the nation when it beat UI 24-10 in the third week of the season.
- Before renewing their rivalry with Washington State this season, the Vandals used to play Wazzu yearly. But those games in the late ‘90s and early 2000s were at Martin Stadium, even when Idaho was technically the home team.
- In 2008, Western Michigan beat Idaho 51-28 at the Dome. WMU went 9-4 that year and advanced to the Texas Bowl. Not NIU’s caliber, but definitely a solid opponent that featured future NFL safety Louis Delmas.
- In a few weeks, Idaho will host Fresno State -- which is picked to win its division in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs, who used to play Idaho when both were in the WAC, will be another tough home foe.
As of Thursday afternoon, Idaho was just shy of 4,000 season tickets sold — which is about 98 percent of last year’s total. A representative from the UI ticket office said it’s likely the Vandals will see a slight bump in the season ticket total come Saturday or after the opener.
UI had sold 1,200 single-game tickets for Saturday’s game as of early this week. It’s hard to estimate the number of students who will show up for Paul Petrino's first home game as Idaho coach, but the lowest student turnout last year was around 2,500 — and the highest was roughly 4,000.
Capacity at the Kibbie Dome is 16,000.