MOSCOW, Idaho – Last year the Idaho football team secured a place in the bowl conversation by Halloween with seven wins in its first nine games, none more riveting than a come-from-behind 35-34 victory over Louisiana Tech.
Becoming postseason-eligible so early was an impressive feat for the previously downtrodden program. But it also helped gloss over the Vandals’ regular-season finish – three consecutive losses and 146 points given up to close Western Athletic Conference play.
Idaho will stage an encore to its 2009 thriller with Louisiana Tech Saturday afternoon in Ruston, La, and the Vandals know the importance of their WAC opener. They don’t just want blot out the memories of last’s season conference flameout – they are also looking to inch closer to another bowl.
“We’ve got a lot of goals set for the season, and (getting to a bowl) is still one of them,” coach Robb Akey said.
To get there, UI must at least equal its 4-4 WAC record from a year ago. The schedule grows more demanding as the season progresses – particularly in November with Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State lined up in a four-week span – so these early conference games will be crucial.
The first test is a Louisiana Tech team that was dominant defensively in a 24-6 pasting of Utah State, but also lost four games in a row before last week.
“They’ve had their ups and downs, just like a lot of teams around the conference,” Idaho quarterback Nate Enderle said. “You’re not sure what you’re going to get, but you have to go in there expecting a top-notch game and a good, physical game.”
The Bulldogs (2-4) have been eyeing a rematch with the Vandals since last season’s agonizing loss in Moscow. They led by 13 points with 6 minutes left, only to give up two touchdowns and miss a field-goal attempt as time expired.
“After that we couldn’t wait to play them,” LTU defensive end Matt Broha told The News-Star of Monroe, La. “I can’t wait to play them this year.”