Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sibling Assignment #111: Grizzlies vs. Vandals, November 27, 1982

I gave this sibling assignment several weeks ago. I should add to it now that the Vandals are bowl bound, playing Bowling Green in Boise in the Humanitarian Bowl on Wednesday, December 30th. Here's the assignment I gave:

The surprising, shocking, soaring Idaho Vandals are off to a 7-2 start and, for me, it stirs memories of Vandal football in the late 60's through the early 80's. How about you? Do you have a story to tell about a particular Vandal game and what happened that is memorable to you, either on or off the field? Write it
You can go here and read InlandEmpireGirl's rememberances of the peaceful days in The Cage, not handing out many towels in the Women's Health Education Building and you can read about Silver Valley Girls lack of interest in football and how she went ahead and wrote this assignment all the same, here.

I admit it. I'm kind of proud of it. I'm easily impressed.

I think it's a Kellogg trait that I've never bothered to shed. Growing up in Kellogg, almost nothing was fancy, shiny, cool, up to date, hip, or anything, as we used to say, mod.

So, when I left Kellogg to go to, say, Coeur d'Alene or Spokane, everything seemed wondrous.

I bring this up because I loved going to Joe Albi Stadium and I thought it was the coolest place on Earth to watch a football game.

When I started college, my junior year, at Whitworth, a bunch of us went on a college provided shuttle bus to Joe Albi to watch Whitworth play Eastern Washington and I didn't really know my audience very well as I effused about what a great place Joe Albi Stadium was and how much I loved it.

Other students on the bus were from L.A. and San Francisco and other places and when we arrived at Joe Albi, they let me know it was, to them, a dump.

I felt stupid.

But today I'm proud of myself for loving Joe Albi Stadium. I'm proud that I loved the old Autzen Stadium much much more than the new expanded version. I'm proud that I love Mac Court and that I'm disappointed that it will soon be replaced by a shiny state of the art arena.

This brings me around to the Idaho Vandals.

The first games I saw at the University of Idaho were outdoors in a wooden structure exposed to the chilly Palouse winds called Neale Stadium.

I loved it.

Then the University of Idaho built an indoor stadium, the Kibbie Dome, or, as some called it, the Half-Astrodome.

I didn't really like the Kibbie Dome at first, but then it began to leak. It began to show other signs of being second class. It smelled funny, kind of moldy from the water leaks. It turned out not to be that slick. It was flawed. It suited my Kellogg expectations for things to always be kind of screwed up, and that's when I was impressed with it.

One more thing: I started going to the old Autzen Stadium in September of 1979 and I loved the Ducks right away because they weren't very good.

But, it was big time college football. I saw the Ducks play Washington, UCLA, USC, Colorado, Michigan State, Washington State, Stanford, among others, and it was full-blown NCAA Division I action.

On November 27, 1982, I got to go to Moscow and see the Vandals play Montana. It wasn't an NCAA Division I game. It couldn't be Division I. It was a playoff game, a concept foreign to Division I. No, this was a Division I-AA playoff game, first round, and the sight of the silver and gold Vandals storming the field to the Vandal fight song made my heart knock against my ribs.

The players were smaller. The stadium was second-rate. The cheerleaders weren't very glamorous.

But the football was great.

Idaho was coached by a rising star in the football world, a young upstart, Dennis Erickson.

Erickson's Vandals spread the field on offense with multiple receivers and a pass happy quarterback from the wee Clearwater River town of Kamiah, Ken Hobart.

Montana had its own special quarterback, Marty Mornhinweg, former head coach of the Detroit Lions and current offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles, and he was mobile, tough, and a great passer.

Dad and I went to this game. Silver Valley Girl was in the marching band and Dad and I were in the stands, nervously anticipating a wide open game, and anxiously hoping the Vandals could avenge their earlier 40-16 loss to the Grizzlies back in October.

But the game did not pivot on either team's offensive fireworks.

It pivoted on two key moments in the fourth quarter, when Idaho's defense, led by future Seahawk, Sam Merriman, twice stuffed the Grizzlies on downs deep inside the red zone, deep, in fact, inside the ten yard line.

Dad and I cheered happily enough the first time the Vandals stuffed Montana, but with the second big stop, I began yelling one of my patented screams of disbelief: "I don't believe it! I don't believe it!" I dropped onto my seat. I put my head between my legs and shook my head, nearly crying: "I don't believe it!"

I turned to Dad: "Can you believe it! Can you believe it!"

Dad was a little misty himself and we joined the crowd in a deafening cry of "Let's go Idaho! Let's go Idaho!"

The Vandals won, 21-7.

They'd won their first ever Division IAA playoff game.

Dad knew I'd been watching a lot of games at Autzen Stadium. The Division I stuff.

His eyes popped wide open, then, when I turned to him before we started out climb out of the Kibbie Dome, and said, "Thanks for bringing me to this game, Dad. I've never enjoyed a game so much in my life."

Maybe it's because I'm from Kellogg and easily impressed, but, to this day, I loved that game the most..Idaho beating their chief rival. Division IAA football at its best.

Idaho left the lower ranks of college football and is a Division I team now. I saw them play at Autzen Stadium back in 2002. Oregon annihilated the Vandals.

Big deal. I was proud of Idaho.

I'd seen them on one of their glory days.

I'll always remember the glory whenever I see the silver and gold.

Let's go Idaho!

Victory in the Humanitarian Bowl!

No comments: