PULLMAN – One team will walk out of Martin Stadium tonight 1-0, the other 0-1.
While most everyone going in expects the same result, that hasn’t stopped the butterflies from setting in as the first game of the 2005 football season draws near.
“I just think you’re a little more nervous,” Washington State University head coach Bill Doba said. “You really don’t know how your team is going to react.”
WSU hosts neighbor Idaho at 7 tonight with the Cougars a big favorite to repeat last season’s 49-8 thrashing of the Vandals – or at least to come close to it.
As has been the case for the last couple of seasons, the Cougars are playing Palouse big dog to the Vandals’ smaller foil, but Idaho enters this game thinking large.
Head coach Nick Holt overhauled his Idaho roster between years No. 1 and 2, bringing in a number of players he feels will have an immediate effect this season.
Though the likelihood of a 41-point turnaround is small, especially with the Cougars themselves feeling better about this season’s team, Holt has struck an optimistic note about this season’s rematch.
“This year’s outcome could be different if we play good, sound football,” Holt said. “I liked our kids’ effort. The kids played hard – we just have to play smart and do the things that good teams do.
“They got on us quickly (last year). We can’t turn the ball over. We can’t give them the ball like we did last year, not to say that the outcome would have been any different.”
WSU comes into this game knowing that any letdown on their part would give the Vandals a chance for a program-defining win.
“We’re expecting a lot from them,” Cougars tight end Troy Bienemann said. “Coach Holt, they’ve probably worked all summer. This is their game of the season. We have a target on our back. But we’re ready, we’re prepared.”
As such, Doba is talking up his team’s opening opponent, highlighting the uncertainty that comes with so many new players.
Even though the coaching staff at Idaho remains mostly the same, Cougars coaches enter tonight’s contest wondering if Holt has something up his sleeve with all the newcomers.
“How good is Idaho? Who knows? They might be real good with those 11 new junior college kids,” Doba said. “We really don’t know how they’re going to play and what they’re like.”
One thing both teams can agree on is that the winner tonight walks away feeling good while the loser – no matter which way this game goes – might be left to wonder how long a season lies ahead.
“You can’t underestimate the importance of a great start,” Bienemann said. “It sets a tone for the rest of the season and that’s what we’re looking to do.”
WSU is favored by 27 1/2 points.
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