Unless the Kibbie Dome air conditioning has been turbocharged, today’s Idaho-North Texas football game shouldn’t resemble last year’s in Denton, Texas.
Idaho’s passing game was grounded by gusty winds and the Mean Green defense at Fouts Field a year ago. Idaho lost 24-17 as thenquarterback Ryan Fien was 18 of 36.
“The gusts were something like 40 miles per hour,” UI coach Chris Tormey said. “We weren’t able to get the ball outside and they just packed it in on us.”
No such breezes are expected today at 3 inside the Kibbie Dome, but North Texas does field another quality defense.
The Mean Green held Oregon State to six points before the Beavers exploded for 27 in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M; was limited to 10 points in the first half before North Texas committed key turnovers in the second half.
North Texas has 26 sacks, seven by Scott Blank and 6.5 by Corbin Epps in five games.
“They’ve gotten good pressure on the quarterback against pretty good teams,” said Tormey, whose Vandals had a bye last Saturday. “That’ll be one of the keys, controlling their defensive ends.”
Per usual, the game is almost a must-win for a Big West Conference opener since there are only five league contests.
“I consider it a double-elimination tournament,” North Texas coach Matt Simon said. “If you lose two, you’re out for sure. If you lose one, you’re in danger.”
North Texas is Big West in name only, offensively speaking. The Mean Green use two running backs and prefer smash-mouth to the Big West’s usual pass-happy systems.
“I wanted a style of offense that might help our defense from time to time and control the clock more,” Simon said.
“Also, because of weather in this league, in November you can’t always throw it 40 times and win.”
Idaho knows that now, too. In part because of last year’s windy loss in Denton, the Vandals have a two-back set, though one-back remains the cornerstone.
North Texas will attempt to wear down Idaho’s defensive front.
“We’ve got good quickness up front and we’ve been able to hold up because of that,” Tormey said. “We play an eight-man front, we put extra players on the line, and that puts more pressure on the secondary.”
Jason Mills, one of three Mean Green quarterbacks a year ago, completed 43 percent in 1996.
He’s improved considerably this season, completing 55 percent with six touchdowns.
“They scored 30 points against Texas Tech and they got into four wides and a quick-passing game,” Tormey said.
Just one more thing for Tormey to worry about. At least the weather won’t be another.
Idaho, which has won 19 straight at home, practiced outside Tuesday and Wednesday because a concert was being staged in the Dome… . Idaho has suffered 10 season-ending injuries. The good news is that right guard Bob Horbaczewski (ankle) practiced this week and could play today. Cheney High grad Rick DeMulling likely will start.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Vandals vs. North Texas