Idaho’s Streak On Line Against Former Coach Smith, Who Won Final 9 Home Games At UI, Back With Utah St.
The first nine wins in “The Streak” came under then-coach John L. Smith. The last 12 have been orchestrated by Chris Tormey.
Somebody stops streaking today.
Idaho football’s 21 consecutive wins on the Kibbie Dome rug will be threatened by Smith’s Utah State Aggies at 5 p.m. Only Nebraska (40) has a longer streak in Division I-A.
“Every week the streak’s an issue, trying to keep that thing alive,” said Tormey, whose Vandals were undressed by Nevada, 42-23, last Saturday.
Many current Vandals were recruited to Idaho by Smith, who left for Utah State after the ‘94 season. But those numbers are dwindling because Idaho’s roster is loaded with freshmen and sophomores.
“It gets easier each year as time goes by. Last year there were a lot of tears,” said Smith, whose Aggies beat UI 35-28 in Logan and cost the Vandals a share of the Big West Conference title.
Idaho must win today to prolong its slim hopes of a Big West title. Utah State (3-4 overall, 1-0 Big West) is trying to keep pace with conference leaders Boise State (2-0) and Nevada (1-0).
“We’re excited about playing for a lot of reasons, the close loss down there, the streak, the league race, and John L. is another issue,” Tormey said. “Most of these kids couldn’t pick John L. Smith out of a lineup.”
Should they ever have to, here’s a tip: He’s the one with the thinning hair wearing cowboy boots.
Smith’s lineup is amply stocked on both lines. The skill-position players are accomplished. Demario Brown, slowed by injury and legal problems this year, rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns against Idaho last year. Quarterback Matt Sauk has passed for 1,739 yards and Nakia Jenkins, who had 10 grabs against Idaho a year ago, has 51 receptions.
USU’s mammoth offensive line presents another test for Idaho’s undersized, but effective defensive front. The Aggies’ smallest starting lineman is 290-pound center Brandon Dyson. Three of UI’s four linemen are in the 230-240 range.
From Idaho’s perspective, USU is similar to Nevada. The Aggies have played a bruising schedule (Utah, Brigham Young, Colorado State, New Mexico) with close calls but little reward in the win column.
And USU, as Nevada did last week, appears to be healing just in time for the Vandals. Standout defensive lineman Ben Crosland tore a tendon in the back of his knee on the first play of USU’s 38-7 win over New Mexico State, but was practicing early this week, much to Smith’s surprise.
Defensive tackle Walter Fiefia (hamstring) also is expected to play.
“Overall up front they’re very similar to Nevada. Colorado State had a lot of success running against Nevada, but very little against Utah State,” Tormey said. “The big reason is the size and strength of Crosland and Fiefia.
“On offense, Jenkins and (Steve) Smith are every bit as good as (Nevada), but they haven’t been as productive.”
That’s because USU receivers have been plagued by drops. Mistakes, in general, have been too common.
“We’re playing hard, but we’re not playing smart. We get in close games and we’ve just self destructed,” Smith said. “I really believe the key is going to be which defense steps up.”
UI’s Whitney Mayer will make his first start of the season at linebacker, replacing Chris Nofoaiga (pinched nerve). Ryan LaPointe continues to start at end, though John Harper (ankle) will play. Wide receiver/returner Jeffrey Townsley (strained knee tendon) and backup linebacker Casey Hills (pinched nerve) are expected to play… . Smith on UI middle linebacker Ryan Skinner: “He is short and slow and he makes every tackle.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Vandals vs. Utah State
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:
Victims in Idaho’s 21-game Kibbie Dome winning streak:
Boise State 49-16
Boston University (I-AA playoffs) 21-14
Stephen F. Austin 58-26
Idaho State 70-21
Montana State 27-13
Northern Arizona 41-14
Northern Iowa 21-12
Weber State 79-30
Sonoma State 66-3
Eastern Washington 37-10
Boise State 33-13
Saint Mary’s 52-17
Cal Poly SLO 38-33
Eastern Washington 37-27
New Mexico State 34-19
Portland State 46-0
North Texas 30-17
UC Davis 44-14
This sidebar appeared with the story: VANDALS VICTIMS Victims in Idaho’s 21-game Kibbie Dome winning streak: 1993 Lehigh 77-14 Boise State 49-16 Boston University (I-AA playoffs) 21-14
1994 Stephen F. Austin 58-26 Idaho State 70-21 Montana State 27-13 Northern Arizona 41-14 Northern Iowa 21-12 Weber State 79-30
1995 Sonoma State 66-3 Eastern Washington 37-10 Montana 55-43 Boise State 33-13
1996 Saint Mary’s 52-17 Cal Poly SLO 38-33 Nevada 24-15 Eastern Washington 37-27 New Mexico State 34-19
1997 Portland State 46-0 North Texas 30-17 UC Davis 44-14