MOSCOW, Idaho – It boils down to the most basic of issues. Among all that has ailed Idaho football in recent years, one shortcoming hovers over the rest.
The program has had a devilishly difficult time squeezing together consecutive wins.
Since 2001, the Vandals have had twice as many head coaches (four) as winning streaks (two). The first lasted two games, and the second reached three games before Dennis Erickson’s lone year back on the Palouse turned sour.
UI has a chance to add to that meager list today. If the Vandals beat Western Michigan of the Mid-American Conference, they will be 2-1 after opening the season with an embarrassing 70-0 loss at Arizona.
“(We’ve) got to get that winning streak going,” cornerback Isaac Butts said. “We’ve got a special group of guys around here, so I think we can. We’ve just got to be focused.”
Today’s matchup, set for 2 p.m. at the Kibbie Dome, will cap UI’s Athletic Hall of Fame weekend. The final 52 members of Idaho’s charter class will be honored between the first and second quarters.
By that time, UI hopes to have built up the same sort of momentum as it did last week. Less than six minutes into the game against Idaho State, it led 14-0 after a 77-yard touchdown pass and blocked punt near the end zone.
The quick start vaulted the Vandals to a 42-27 win over the Bengals. Idaho hadn’t scored that many points in four years.
“It was a relief,” coach Robb Akey said. “It was fun. You couldn’t wipe a smile off anybody’s face at that time. It was a good, but … we’re growing and understanding, ‘OK, that was great. We won the game like we expected to. Now we need to go … find out what kind of streak we can put together? Can we put … back-to-back wins together?’ ”
UI is an eight-point underdog to the Broncos, who are making a rare trip to this side of the country. This will be their first game in the Pacific time zone since 1988.
WMU nipped Northern Illinois 29-26 last week to even its record at 1-1. It’s led by quarterback Tim Hiller (64.6 completion percentage, 528 yards) and senior safety Louis Delmas (21 tackles, two interceptions).
Delmas, known for his jarring hits, is “a guy that stands out to me,” Akey said. “He’s got speed (and) gets after guys.”
Hiller’s accuracy could prove lethal against an Idaho defense that’s ranked 104th nationally against the pass. The secondary was especially vulnerable to well-timed, short passes last week versus ISU.
“As far the underneath stuff, we’ve just got to be better tacklers as far tackling on the first tackle and having other guys come in,” Butts said.
“Once we get that fixed up, we should be fine.”