September 21, 2012 in Sports

Idaho, Wyoming share many similarities

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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MOSCOW, Idaho – In two starts as Idaho quarterback, Dominique Blackman has played in front of a run-of-the-mill crowd of 16,591 at Bowling Green and 92,177 boisterous fans at LSU’s Tiger Stadium.

He’s seen both ends of the college football spectrum, and today he finally gets to take part in a game at the Kibbie Dome. The fact that the crowd likely won’t top 10,000?

“None of that matters,” Blackman said. “We’ve just got to win. We have to win this game, period.”

The winless Vandals host Wyoming at 2 p.m. in a matchup of teams with almost carbon-copy profiles. And the similarities go well beyond their shared 0-3 records:

Both teams, minus their starting quarterback, dropped games to Big Sky foes (Idaho to Eastern Washington; Wyoming to Cal Poly).

Both absorbed close losses to Mid-American Conference teams (Idaho to Bowling Green; Wyoming to Toledo).

And both were beaten handily wiped out by national powers (Wyoming lost 37-17 at Texas; Idaho lost 63-14 at LSU).

“It’s almost like there’s a script written,” Idaho coach Robb Akey said.

These teams differ in at least one regard, though. The Vandals rank 119th in the FBS in rushing offense through three weeks, while the Wyoming defense is 118th against the run.

“We’re both in the same mix there,” Akey said. “We’re looking to run the ball better. They’re looking to stop it better. Something’s going to give (today).”

The Cowboys went 8-5 last season and lost to Temple in the New Mexico Bowl. A big reason for their resurgence was QB Brett Smith, who excelled as a freshman in 2011 (Wyoming went 8-5) but was knocked out of the Toledo game on Sept. 8 when he took a blow to the head.

Smith sat out last week as Cal Poly upset Wyoming. His status is uncertain for today.

Blackman, meanwhile, is coming off a four-interception game at LSU.

Yet he also was a key figure in an unlikely second-quarter outburst against the Tigers’ respected defense.

The 6-foot-5 transfer threw two TD passes in an 8-minute span, the last of which cut Idaho’s deficit to 21-14 – a score that would hold up until the final minute of the first half.

The glimpse of explosiveness from the Vandals didn’t do anything for Blackman.

“I don’t believe in that moral stuff, man,” he said. “… So I guessed it showed that we can be explosive at times. We stress all year, ‘Finish.’ And we’ve stressed all year, ‘Do it in the second half.’”

Akey declined to characterize Idaho as desperate for a win. Despite the program’s worst start since 2005, he’s seen incremental progress in UI’s preparation and response to adversity.

“And now, being able to string that all together is what I believe is going to get us over the hump,” the sixth-year coach said.

Blackman took it a step further, declaring – and then repeating – that the Vandals “are going to get this win.”


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