BOISE – Quite a week for Idaho Vandals pride.
Coach Robb Akey pushed his Indignation Meter into the red, snorting at the “homage” he was supposed to pay Boise State and how it had been suggested – it was never revealed by whom – that the Vandals shouldn’t bother showing up Saturday, on the off chance they might actually put on a good show and cost the conference some BCS swag.
Then athletic director Rob Spear drew a line in the Tarmac and walked off a Horizon Air plane dolled up in Broncos blue and orange – pique we’ll know is sincere as long as no voucher gets submitted for his mileage to Spokane to catch an alternative flight.
But as boycotts go, that’s small potatoes.
Because the Vandals themselves have taken a stand against victory over the Broncos that’s lasted 11 years now, with no end in sight.
Now that’s a principle.
And they’re not about to risk it by keeping the score, you know, close.
Incredibly, the average margin of defeat for the Vandals in the annual thank-you-sir-may-I-have- anotherthon continues to grow, nudged along by the 63-25 flogging they absorbed Saturday at Bronco Stadium. Perhaps the bean counters at the Western Athletic Conference will bump the Vandals’ cut of Boise’s postseason loot, just to show Akey there are no hard feelings.
Fighting their way into the WAC’s middle class is one thing. But the ruling class doesn’t share the secret handshake with just anybody.
“We’ve got work to do to get the rival game fixed,” Akey admitted.
Just a look at assorted scoreboards and standings over the past decade suggests a moratorium on that word “rival” would be in order, but that wouldn’t be the whole truth. The fact that the Vandals had played their way into some headlines this fall and the pregame harrumphs from up Moscow way helped keep the Broncos interested, though keeping up with the BCS Joneses remains their overriding concern. In any case, their message to the team upstate was anything but nuanced, not with flourishes like throwing a halfback pass for a touchdown, running out a kick from 8 yards deep in the end zone – and challenging (and winning) a missed call on a fumble while 46 points ahead.
“There was a lot of attention here,” said Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore, “and we were aware of it.”
And now the Vandals are aware that, however many hearts they’ve warmed with their revival, there remains a world of difference between themselves and the Broncos.
Well, at least they should be aware.
If Akey – being the competitor he is – “didn’t expect to get blown out like this,” as he said, surely he could see on film the possibilities. Vandals safety Shiloh Keo, meanwhile, persisted in the belief that Idaho has actually closed the gap in the athlete department and that this belly-flop was solely about the Broncos “executing better.”
Well, it certainly was an execution.
This wasn’t about experience – the Broncos start but one senior. The truth is, they’re just faster, stronger, smarter and better (Are there more than two Vandals who could start here?). Moore continues to shame the punchless Pac-10 schools in Washington that ignored him. Wideout Austin Pettis, who snagged four of Moore’s five touchdown passes, humiliated Idaho’s secondary. The Broncos’ speed in the secondary made life a misery for Idaho quarterback Brian Reader, who threw five interceptions and lost a fumble.
The only thing the Broncos couldn’t do was stop Idaho’s DeMaundray Woolridge, who rumbled for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
But the statistical anomalies – Idaho’s 514 yards and a 14-minute edge in possession time – were fool’s gold. Yes, the turnovers put the Vandals in a quick 14-0 hole, but when the Broncos needed to drive the field they faced no opposition.
This was a bigger knockout than anything LeGarrette Blount delivered on this field in September.
And now there’s damage control to be done. The Vandals have a bye before wrapping up the regular season against Utah State, and the suspicion is an eighth win will be necessary for a bowl ticket. They’ve surrendered nearly 200 points in the past four games, and despite several votes of confidence Reader has not been an effective fill-in for the injured Nathan Enderle.
“Nobody’s happy about what happened today,” said Akey, “but I’m not going to let that destroy this season. We wanted very much to get the rival game going in the other direction and that’s still part of the job, but I’m not going to allow one game to destroy what could be a very good season for us.”
Good idea. Sounds more productive than pregame posturing, in any event.