MOSCOW, Idaho – For a program seemingly always in flux, Eddie Williams has been a constant presence. He’s lasted through three head coaches, 29 losses and truckloads of heartache.
Yet Williams is convinced that what happened last week to Idaho in the Arizona desert was, well, a mirage.
“Really, frankly, that wasn’t us,” the senior tight end said of the Vandals’ 70-0 loss to the Wildcats. “We’re still capable of much, much more.”
Today at the Kibbie Dome, Idaho fans will start to see if Williams is right. Still smarting from its worst loss in 40 years, UI squares off with in-state rival Idaho State at 2 p.m.
This seems to be a good spot for the Vandals to bounce back. Their home opener features an ISU squad that also got drubbed last week, 49-7 at Boise State, and has struggled to find traction in the Big Sky in recent years.
Then again, these are the sort of opponents Western Athletic Conference teams are expected to beat. Since the start of the 2006 season, the Vandals have bagged five wins. Two have come against Idaho State and Cal Poly, teams in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA).
Although the Bengals are in a lower tier, Idaho would no doubt still savor a victory. Its last triumph came 363 days ago, when it upended Poly 20-13.
Since then, the Vandals have stumbled in 11 straight games.
“You know, we’re a building program,” safety Shiloh Keo said. “But we want to be at the top of the WAC by the end of the season, so every week is a must-win game. By what happened last week, it puts even more emphasis on this (game).”
Bengals coach John Zamberlin is wary of UI for that reason. Because of how badly Idaho lost to Arizona, every question mark has been magnified leading up to this contest.
Will quarterback Nathan Enderle rebound from a 10-for-25 debut? Can the Vandals run the ball consistently with a banged-up offensive line and Deonte Jackson’s persistent back problems?
“If anything,” Zamberlin said, “I probably would have preferred (that) they got beat by two points (last week).”
As it stands, the Vandals should be a motivated club. A week ago, they mustered a mere 112 total yards, coughed up five turnovers and converted one third down.
“We should be upset,” Idaho coach Robb Akey said. “We ought to be mad. We ought to be very determined to fix what we’re doing. You know, it was an eye-opener. We got kicked in the mouth, and now (we have) a chance to be able to respond to it.”
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