Last time the Idaho football players took the field in opposing competition, it ended in celebration.
If the goal was to win the final game of the year, then the team did exactly that when it became the 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl champions. It was Idaho’s first bowl appearance and win since 2009. Now, the trophy is enshrined, a commemorative banner hangs in the Kibbie Dome and the 2016 season is merely a footnote in the program’s rich history.
The 2017 season will be Idaho’s final one in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) before joining the Big Sky Conference.
Returning reliable players from last season’s bowl-bound team provides Idaho with some well-needed experience going forward.
Senior running back Aaron Duckworth, senior quarterback Matt Linehan and junior running back Isaiah Saunders enter this year’s campaign having carried the Idaho offense in 2016. The three upper-classmen played in all 13 games last season.
The Duckworth-Sanders duo combined to score 14 touchdowns in 2016. They also hauled in over 300 touches which accumulated more than 1,400 yards.
Vandals football will open regular season play against Sacramento State 6 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Kibbie Dome.
The Idaho women’s soccer team’s 2016 conference record speaks for itself. The only Big Sky team to actually defeat Idaho last season was Eastern Washington University.
Although the team did not make a run in the Big Sky Tournament, the Vandals have had a strong start to the 2017 season.
Idaho opened its schedule with a commanding 4-0 victory in an exhibition matchup against Mount Royal University. They tallied three goals in the first half of play.
Sophomore forward Myah Merino stood out in the Idaho effort. She recorded two of the four goals on the day, matching her season total from last year.
With only a pair of seniors on the team, the production from younger players, such as Merino, will be essential to the team’s success.
Idaho’s next home game is against rival Boise State 6 p.m. in the Kibbie Dome.
The first challenge Idaho’s women’s volleyball team will face this year comes in hostile territory. The team is scheduled for three games in two days at the Oregon State tournament Aug. 25 and Aug. 26, opening up against the Beavers.
Zack Ozuna can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @OzunaZack21