Vandals Win Homecoming Thriller

With Idaho's stunning come-from-behind 35-34 victory in the final minutes of Saturday's Homecoming battle against Louisiana Tech, quarterback NATHAN ENDERLE and the Vandals improve to 7-2 on the season and 4-1 in WAC competition. With each win they make a stronger case for Idaho's first post-season bowl invitation in 11 years. Inside are links to stories and analysis of Saturday's triumph.

LINK: OFFICIAL Idaho athletics site game summary and stats

LINK: Three things to ponder from Idaho's win

LINK: Seventh heaven

LINK: Vandals can handle adversity

We have deliberately held off on using the title "Uncharted Territory" when describing the Vandals this season, but an argument could be made that it is a worthy title now. As has already been documented, Idaho (7-2, 4-1 WAC) is off to its best start in over a decade, and they are tied with Fresno State as one of just two teams in the conference with only one conference loss so far this season. Only Nevada and Boise State remain undefeated in the conference race.

We've also hesitated to use the "Uncharted" title this season because Idaho does have a history of routinely putting together 9, 10, and 11 win seasons -- it's just been awhile, back when the Vandals were a national power at the 1AA level in the 80s and 90s. Those great Vandal teams consistently made the post season playoffs, annually finished at or near the top of the Conference standings, and twice fielded the best player in the country at the 1AA level (Walter Payton Award recipients John Friesz and Doug Nussmeier).

But historically speaking, there is more to the significance of Saturday's Vandal win -- both in it's post-season ramifications, and how this year's success illuminates a sea-change in the Idaho athletics program that Athletics Director Rob Spear is building in Moscow. Fan interest is surging and the Dome is near capacity each week (with one sellout already and another anticipated for this week's ESPN-U showdown with Fresno State). More importantly, with three dates on ESPN-U this season the exposure the University of Idaho is getting is at an all-time high.

But another major milestone with this football program was reached with Saturday's victory.

MOST REGULAR SEASON DIVISION 1A WINS IN SCHOOL HISTORY: This may be somewhat surprising to some Vandal fans, especially those who came on board during the 80s and 90s when Idaho was a national power at the Division 1AA level. But with Saturday's victory over Louisiana Tech, the Vandals have now beaten seven "current" Division 1A teams during the regular season for the first time in school history.

Moreover, with wins this year over Colorado State, San Diego State, New Mexico State, Northern Illinois, Hawaii, San Jose State, and Louisiana Tech, the Vandals have not had a break from FBS (formerly Division 1A) competition all year, and have battled as underdogs in almost every game this year.

In 116 years of Vandal football (beginning with Idaho's first team in 1893 which went 2-0-1), much of it played in the early years as a member of the Pacific Coast Conference - the precursor to the modern day PAC-10 conference - Idaho has never before fielded a team that has beaten seven teams that are currently considered Division 1A members in a single regular season.

Here's a brief history:

- In 1996, Idaho made the move back to 1A. Two years later in 1998 the Vandals completed a fantastic 8-3 regular season and a first place finish in the Big West Conference, and earned an invitation to the Humanitarian Bowl. But of those eight wins, two victories came against 1AA teams (Eastern Washington and Idaho State). For the season - Idaho's best season since returning to 1A - the Vandals beat six 1A teams during the regular season, and won a seventh game with the H-Bowl win.

- In 1999, Idaho won seven regular season games, finishing at 7-4 and second in the Big West. But again, that schedule included two victories over 1AA teams (Eastern Washington and Montana).

- Prior to competing at the Division 1AA level (1978-1995), Idaho reached seven regular season wins only twice: 1971 and 1976. In '76 Idaho (7-4) beat Boise State, Pacific, New Mexico State, Weber State, Idaho State, Montana, and Northern Arizona. In '71 (8-3), the Vandals beat Colorado State, Montana, Idaho State, Pacific, West Texas A&M, New Mexico State, Weber State, and Montana State.

- Prior to the Big Sky years, Idaho achieved six wins in a single season just once. In 1938, as a member of the PCC the Vandals finished 6-3-1 with wins over Oregon State (13-0), North Dakota State (27-0), Gonzaga (26-12), Montana (19-6), Utah State (14-0) and Utah (16-0). The Vandals tied Washington (12-12), and lost to Washington State (12-0), Oregon (19-6), and UCLA (33-0).

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