Drake Bulldogs vs. Idaho Vandals, 9/17/2022, 12:00pm MTN
Final Score: Idaho 41 – Bulldogs 10; Attendance: 5,804
Weather: Sunny 75; Ticket: Free, Face $20; Parking: $15
“It’s Unique” by Tree
Disclaimer: Idaho is now FCS, but when I started the bet, they were FBS. Accordingly, I have kept them in my count.
The University of Idaho is in Moscow. It is a couple of hours from Spokane, which you may or may not be able to get a direct flight to. The logistics are not difficult, but they are not easy either. WSU is literally right down the road (10 miles). As expected, lodging is tight. We ended up in nice little Airbnb in Lewiston, which was about a half-hour away. Other options would be Pullman or go further up north and stay in Spokane. If you want to be posh, you can always stay in Coeur D’ Alene. It is a beautiful spot right on a massive lake. We spent a couple of hours sitting on the lake enjoying a few adult beverages and people-watching the region’s bourgeoisie. Lewiston is in the heart of the Palouse, a hotbed of U.S. agriculture. It seemed only right that we had dinner at the Wrangler, with live Country and Western music. To do this, we sacrificed a trip to the Corner Club, Moscow’s most popular bar.
Being first time visitors to Idaho, we thought it best to do some early recon. We did a Friday afternoon scouting trip, only to stumble upon the inaugural University of Idaho Oktoberfest, smartly scheduled in mid-September instead a potentially freezing cold October. For this weekend, I was with my good friend and world class networker Doug (see reviews on Iowa, Iowa State, Arkansas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to see more exploits with Doug). In the time it took for me break the seal on the previously mentioned Coeur D’Alene beers, he had already struck up a conversation with the University of Idaho’s VP of Advancement, Mary Kay and a very successful alumnus, Randy. He lives in Southern California but has strong to ties to the Vandals and his daughter is a student at Idaho. Neither Doug nor I had the courage to ask why an attractive young woman from LA would choose to go to school in Moscow, Idaho. I mean, on the basis on weather alone, you’d have to think Idaho loses that contest every time. To be fair, we found ourselves charmed by the denizens of Moscow. The Oktoberfest was laid back, unpretentious fun. It isn’t often you see a multi-cultural oompah band, putting a polka twist on “Stacey’s Girl”.
We had heard the tailgating at Idaho was light and like many smaller schools, finding a tailgate spot in the premium lots next to the stadium through after-market resellers was impossible so we had to settle for the game-day cash lots. Fortunately, these were not very far from the other lots. Unfortunately, the tailgating was a bit sparse. So sparse, that the tailgaters felt comfortable taking up multiple spaces without fear of paying additional fees. It was refreshing to have no pressure to fit to a 10×10 site. This also meant that the overall vibe was just a bit off. I did go up and check out the tailgating in the other lots. It was obviously better, but there were still far more spots with just cars parked versus actual tailgaters. We did find that everyone we talked to in the lots were extremely friendly and generous. I got flagged down by one griller as I was walking toward the dome who insisted I take a couple of meatballs on stick to eat on the way. While I realize he was looking to get rid of his pre-game inventory, the meatballs, nonetheless, were tasty and appreciated. Judging by the top shelf liquor sitting on their tailgate, they were savvy, experienced tailgaters.
The Vandals play in the Kibbie Dome, which is, I am told, the largest free standing timber structure in the U.S. It sits like a massive oil drum cut in half and plopped on top of a football field. For that aesthetic it is often panned as one of the ugliest arenas in the U.S. Having visited my share of early 70’s concrete monolith stadiums, I feel the criticism is a bit unfair. Unfortunately, the inside doesn’t look much better with most of the wood support structures covered up. While I am sure there are practical reasons for why it is designed the way it is, I can’t help that more exposed timber would drastically improve the interior. Doug toured their brand-new basketball arena which sits right next to Kibbie and says its wood architecture is prominently and beautifully featured.
While there is only one video board, the Dome is small enough that any seat will give a serviceable view of the game. Our seats were about halfway up on the 20-yard line, and we had plenty of room to move about. Tickets were $30 in that section, but thanks to Doug’s extensive network, we had free tickets. The Idaho program had fallen on rough times, so it was not a sellout. The new coach, Jason Eck, has been very aggressive in reinvigorating the community and the program seems to be on an upward trajectory. His efforts with the student body certainly had worked, as the student section placed strategically adjacent to the visitors’ bench was loud and rowdy. With the move to FCS, Idaho’s rivalry with FBS teams took a hit. When they played WSU there was a time when the had the slogan that “losers walk” back to their home stadium. True, it is only about 7 miles, but I liked that tradition nonetheless. Montana seems to be the new rival although Eastern Washington is just up the rode and also garners some attention. However, the true animosity is held for Boise State. There was a time when a certain Boise State President discounted possible future games with Idaho referring the Vandal faithful as “Nasty and Inebriated”. This was promptly printed up on hundreds of Idaho t-shirts.
Inside the stadium, there are not a lot of notable traditions. They do sound a war horn when they a get first down. The band was very good, and the Idaho Fight song consistently hits the top ten of nationwide polls. Typical of smaller schools, they also have lots of bits with the student body. I would characterize the atmosphere as reasonable. One could imagine that the Kibbie Dome would be rocking if it were sold out. They just don’t have fan support yet. The concessions were average, but they did have a souvenir cup. They also sell beer but as the guy standing next to me in line discovered, it was at a different booth.
Drake was coming into this game a big underdog (being 0-3). This was a good thing from our perspective, because our attendance at this game was going to be strictly a first half affair. It was a bit disconcerting to see the Bulldogs take the lead at the start of the second quarter, 14 – 7. Idaho came on in the second quarter, owning a 20 -14 lead into half-time. I was not too uncomfortable in leaving, though. Idaho had moved the ball with ease. If they substituted touchdowns for field goals, they would have had a comfortable lead. It got a little better for the Vandals offense in the second half, but it was the defense that held Drake scoreless for the remainder of the game. The final score was 41 -14, and I had no regrets missing the second half.
I wasn’t sure I was ever going to see the Kibbie Dome once they dropped to FCS. I couldn’t justify a separate trip to Idaho. It was all dependent on the being a to do a double weekend in combination with Washington State University. When these games came up on the schedule both were scheduled for a 2:00pm kick. I don’t know why there was a switch in times a week before the games, but it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered it on the Wednesday night of the game week. Alas, it did not allow for much of a logistical change of plans at that point. Flights and lodging were already set. It did mean I would have to sacrifice WSU tailgating to get to Kibbie, but to me it was price worth paying. I had a good time in Idaho. It is not a “must see”, but it would not be a regrettable visit if your team were playing the Vandals. Likewise, it might be paired with a WSU visit depending on schedules. I could also see making this part of a longer stay in the area. Lake Coeur D’Alene is beautiful and a side trip to see the Vandals would make a four-day weekend justifiable. Of course, this needs to be a September visit. Idaho is a dish best served warm.