Desperation time — 0-3 Idaho and Wyoming meet in Kibbie Dome Saturday with a lot to prove
It couldn’t have been scripted any more perfectly. The University of Wyoming and the University of Idaho — two schools that have achieved everything it takes to be imperfect this season.
Two mid-level FBS schools from rival conferences will meet in an attempt to erase early season disaster and pick up their first win of the season.
What can be guaranteed? The host Vandals or visiting Cowboys will walk out of the Kibbie Dome Saturday with a 1-3 record. The other will continue down misery road with a less than convincing 0-4 mark.
Even more unique about this specific match-up is that Idaho and Wyoming have fallen to opponents of almost the exact same caliber. For Idaho it was Eastern Washington, Bowling Green and LSU. For Wyoming, 0-3 has come at the expense of Cal Poly, Toledo and Texas.
“It’s time now to play the way we’re capable of playing, that we put these things together, that we’ve been working to,” coach Robb Akey said. “The time is now for that to be able to happen … Certainly it’s been a little aggravating to be sitting here without a win in the fourth game of the season.”
Similar to how Idaho hung with LSU for two quarters last weekend in Death Valley, the Cowboys outscored the Big 12 Longhorns in the first and fourth quarters. The problem — Texas combined for 24 points in the second and third quarters while holding their opponents scoreless.
Slaughter-fests in Baton Rouge and Austin were to be expected. Upsets at the hands of FCS lightweights, scheduled intentionally to guarantee at least one season win, were anything but.
Slated to square off with tougher opponents two weeks from now as Idaho meets North Carolina of the ACC and Wyoming visits Reno and Mountain West foe Nevada, Saturday could be either team’s last chance to kick off a bowl run.
That opportunity looks continually promising for the Vandals, who may be fortunate enough to avoid Cowboy quarterback Brett Smith, who suffered a head injury two weeks ago against Toledo.
Wyoming coach Dave Christensen is assessing Smith on a day-to-day basis and said he would make a decision prior to kickoff on whether the sophomore will start. If the script plays out in Idaho’s favor, junior Colby Kirkegaard will once again step into the limelight.
Concerns about his own quarterback aside, Christensen may have spent more time this week preparing for the play-caller wearing black and gold.
Dominique Blackman’s Kibbie Dome debut was initially intended for the home-opener against Eastern Washington. Unrevealed issues put that on hold.
“Going to be about 40 Blackmans, with all my family members here,” Blackman said. “It’s just going to be great out here in front of all my friends… Finally get this first victory at home.”
With two games under his belt, Blackman’s grasp on Jason Gesser’s offense looks solid, yet nowhere near perfect. The Carson, Calif., native has combined for nearly 530 passing yards in losses to Bowling Green and LSU with a completion percentage of 72 percent.
However, five interceptions are a factor and Blackman remains unsatisfied with his play.
“Our team played great but I played terrible,” Blackman said. “I mean I probably played the worst game of my life.”
Still, the 55 times Blackman has been able to find his own teammates, a plethora of sure-handed wide receivers and tight ends stand alongside him. Eleven Vandals have been on the receiving end of passes this season, and five of those have caught for more than 70 yards thus far.
In Baton Rouge, Jahrie Level and Michael LaGrone led the pack with five catches each, going for more than 80 combined yards. The two reeled in one touchdown a piece.
“The spread offense that we have and the offense that coach Gesser brought, I mean anybody can get the ball. You have to be ready, when your name’s called, when your number is called you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” LaGrone said.
Desperation will be the key term Saturday, but Idaho has another motive — proving that a week one loss to its Big Sky opponent was a fluke and strengthen the argument Idaho can compete with teams in the very Mountain West Conference it has expressed interest in.
With a traditional 2:00 P.M. PT Kibbie Dome kickoff, fans will have an opportunity to stream the game online via ESPN3.
Theo Lawson can be reached at email@example.com