[Vandal] Idaho-EWU Rivalry Seems To Be Building

robiegruss at aol.com robiegruss at aol.com
Fri Feb 26 09:12:44 PST 2021

>From The Lewiston TribuneLewiston, IdahoFriday, February 26, 2021
Idaho-EWU Rivalry Seems To Be Building
Regional opponents split 2 games since Vandals rejoined Big Sky
By Colton Clark
In his postgame talk after last season’s meeting of regional rivals, Idaho linebacker Christian Elliss recalled that sunny afternoon on the Inferno at Roos Field the year before, when host Eastern Washington roasted the Vandals.
“It was personal,” he said after Idaho’s 35-27 upset of EWU at the Kibbie Dome, referencing 2018’s contest.
The fifth-ranked Eagles had strung together chunk gainers on offense and lived in the Vandals’ backfield defensively, beating Idaho up and jawing about it too during and after a 38-14 rout.
“We’ve got a little bit of anger toward their program, and a couple of plays last year were really the fuel behind it,” Elliss continued.
In 2019, the Vandals manhandled EWU on the ground, palpably frustrating the Eagles’ short-handed defensive front. Former Idaho quarterback Mason Petrino exaggerated a high-step into the end zone to highlight a 28-0 first half.
Idaho pressured All-American EWU quarterback Eric Barriere into a shaky performance before he stirred, leading a post-intermission surge that ultimately fell short.
Then it was the Vandals’ turn to talk some smack.
“We wanted to destroy them. We wanted to bury them. We wanted to put them in the dirt,” said Elliss, who added Idaho “got in their heads.”
“This is my field. This is my turf. Get off my field. Just go home.”
Said Petrino then: “We kept hitting them, kept hitting them, and they kept getting hurt, unfortunately. You see guys drop, so you keep running over them.”
The Big Sky programs — separated by just 77 miles — will square off for the third time since Idaho’s conference reintroduction at 3 p.m. Saturday in Moscow.Say what you will, but Idaho-EWU at last seems to be morphing into a true, enthusiastic rivalry game.
Historically, the series hadn’t been deemed as such.
Before Idaho made the leap to Division I-A play — now the Football Bowl Subdivision — in 1996, the Eagles and Vandals had been Big Sky foes for only nine seasons. EWU didn’t become a Division I team until 1984.
If you ask old-school Vandals, Eastern was more of the afterthought in league play. Idaho went 9-2 against the Eagles from 1987-97 in a series termed the “Governor’s Cup” (the teams played in the middle of the season for two more years after Idaho departed the Big Sky).
The streak included five 20-plus-point victories for the Vandals. The only blemishes were a double-overtime defeat in 1991, and a 24-21 shocker in Spokane in 1997.
Plus, Montana had been a Idaho adversary since the turn of the 20th century. Boise State had been a hated opponent since the 1970s.
But with the Grizzlies now more absorbed with Montana State and the Brawl of the Wild, and with FBS Group of Five power Boise State refusing to acknowledge the existence of Idaho’s football program, perhaps it’s time to accept Eastern in that role.
“Anytime two teams live that close to each other, and guys know each other ... there’s definitely a rivalry there,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said Tuesday. The eighth-year Idaho boss is familiar with the series’ history, having spent 1992-94 as a Vandal assistant.
“I think it’s a good rivalry. I don’t think we were very happy two years ago when they beat us, and I don’t think they were very happy last year. It’ll be two teams that don’t like each other very much, and they’ll go out there and fight extremely hard.”
EWU cannot be brushed aside anymore. Since 2000, the Eagles are 3-1 against Idaho. They claimed the Football Championship Subdivision crown in the 2010 season, and finished runner-up to North Dakota State two seasons ago.While the Eagles have firmly established themselves as an upper-tier FCS program, Idaho is seeking a return to that status — the Vandals were a I-AA force from 1982-95.
“Anytime you can open with a team that plays that way and has that kind of reputation, it definitely gets your guys juiced up and ready to go,” Petrino said.
There’s been some crossover between the two teams lately too.
A few instances: Former Vandal players Josh Fetter and Brian Strandley were longtime Eastern assistants until this past offseason, when the pair abruptly resigned; starting EWU safety Calin Criner is the son of Mark Criner, Idaho’s defensive coordinator from 2007-12; EWU defensive coordinator Eti Ena coached Idaho’s D-line under Criner.
Also, standout Idaho fullback Logan Kendall is a native of Cheney, Wash., Eastern’s home. More notable is that former starting Vandals linebacker Ty Graham — who also hails from Cheney — now is an Eagle team captain.
Graham was a key figure on Idaho’s defense from 2016-18. He helped the Vandals to a Potato Bowl championship as a true freshman. His father, John, was EWU’s defensive coordinator in its title season. John Graham briefly coached Idaho’s linebackers a few years ago.
Ty Graham, who redshirted last season, told Larry Weir on a podcast that he simply sought to finish up his career at home.
“I’m looking forward to (the game),” he said. “Nothing bad-related whatsoever. I’m excited to compete against them. Logan Kendall, love that kid ...”
Added Paul Petrino: “It might help him. He went against our offense a lot in practice, although it’s changed since then. I think Ty’s a great kid. I wish him nothing but the best, but not on that day.”
APPLES AND POTATOES — According to EWU’s media relations site, a traveling trophy used to be presented to the winner, and “for a time, a bushel of apples and potatoes were wagered between the (states’) governors.”
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