October 30, 1982: New Idaho coach Dennis Erickson brings the Vandals into Bronco Stadium to try to break a five-game losing streak to Boise State. Not only does Idaho snap the skid, it begins “The Streak”—as the Vandals would win the next 12 games against Boise State. On this night, junior quarterback Ken Hobart, thriving in Erickson’s new offense, would lead Idaho to a 24-17 victory. Boise State would begin its own streak in 1999 and would match the Vandals with a 12th straight win in the rivalry in 2010, a 52-14 victory at the Kibbie Dome before the series went dormant.
Idaho’s next three victories in The Streak were dominant, including a 37-0 win in 1984 that marked the first time Boise State had been shut out as a four-year program (it’s only happened one other time since). But then came a run of close calls in the series—the Vandals’ next six wins over the Broncos were decided by a touchdown or less. Two routs followed in 1992 and 1993 before Boise State finally broke The Streak with a 27-24 win on the blue turf to decide the Big Sky championship in 1994.
As for Erickson, the triumph over the Broncos was the first signature victory in a four-year Idaho stint that would see the Vandals tie for the Big Sky championship in 1982 and win it outright in 1985. Erickson’s head coaching odyssey then began. He spent 1986 at Wyoming and 1987-88 at Washington State before moving on to a six-year run at Miami that included national championships in 1989 and 1991.
Erickson parlayed that into an NFL job with Seattle, where he spent four years. Then it was back to the college ranks and a successful four seasons at Oregon State. The NFL beckoned again in San Francisco (and again it did not work out). By 2006, Erickson was back at Idaho and led the Vandals to an encouraging 4-8 season, but he bolted for Arizona State after less than a year. ASU was his last stop as a head coach—it finished with a 52-24 loss to, ironically, Boise State in the 2011 Las Vegas Bowl.
There was a “Who’s Who” of Idaho coaches that engineered The Streak. It was a coaching tree that delivered. Erickson was followed by Keith Gilbertson from 1986-88, and Gilbertson was succeeded by John L. Smith from 1989-94. The Vandals rode a prolific offense during those years and produced two Walter Payton Award winners, John Friesz in 1989 and Doug Nussmeier in 1993.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)