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Blast from the past: Eastern Washington’s wins over Idaho helped build program into national powerhouse

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 26, 2018, 10:32 p.m.

Was Idaho and Eastern Washington an unrequited rivalry? Depends who you ask.

There was never a question of who had the better football program, though.

Idaho owned its series with the nearby Eagles through the 1980s and ’90s, winning 14 of the 18 meetings.

But the Vandals, who returned to the Big Sky Conference this year after a 22-year stint at the FBS level, have yet to clip the Eagles this millennium.

EWU shut down Idaho at Kibbie Dome in the programs’ only two meetings in the 2000s – slugfest wins of 8-5 in 2003 and 20-3 in 2012 – an era in which the Eagles have established themselves as one of the most consistent FBS programs.

Wins over Idaho – a former tradition rich I-AA (now FCS) program that struggled in the FBS – were rare for EWU decades go, but they were often seminal moments that helped lead to the success it enjoys today.

When Idaho (3-4, 2-2 Big Sky) faces fifth-ranked EWU (5-2, 3-1) at noon Saturday at Roos Field, it will be the Vandals’ first game on Cheney soil since Oct. 8, 1994.

Here’s a look back at five EWU-UI games through the years.

1994: Idaho 40, EWU 15

The last time EWU and Idaho met in Cheney, the Eagles had a grass field and the Vandals were ranked.

Times sure have changed.

EWU jumped out to a 12-0 lead, but the Vandals flipped the switch, riding running back Sheridan May’s legs (114 rushing yards) and quarterback Brian Brennan’s arm (238 passing yards) in front of over 5,873 fans at sunny Woodward Field.

Todd Bernett passed for 321 yards, a touchdown and an interception for the Eagles, who finished 4-7 that season.

Idaho (9-3) finished No. 6 in the polls after falling to quarterback Steve McNair’s Alcorn State team in the first round of the playoffs.

1985: EWU 43, Idaho 38

Just three weeks after Big Sky champion Idaho handled the Eagles 42-21 in a nonconference game, the teams met again in the first round of the I-AA playoffs. Behind EWU quarterback Rick Worman, who completed 29 of 53 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns, the Eagles, then a I-AA independent, upset the Vandals 42-38.

Worman’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Eric Riley in the closing seconds vaulted EWU, which won its first postseason game at the Division I level, helping the Eagles earn their Big Sky Conference membership in 1987.

Worman and the Eagles beat Idaho for first time as a Division I member in 1984, a 35-25 win in front of 10,200 fans at Albi Stadium in Spokane.

1997: EWU 24, Idaho 21

EWU quarterback Harry Leon orchestrated a four-play, 64-yard drive capped off by a 3-yard Rex Prescott touchdown run with 32 seconds left, beating Idaho 24-21 in front of nearly 8,000 fans at Albi Stadium.

EWU, which improved to 8-1 with the win and went on to win its second Big Sky Conference title, held Idaho to 244 yards of offense. Eagles wide receiver Jeff Ogden had 151 yards receiving.

Idaho quarterback Brian Brennan and running back Jerome Thomas were out with injuries.

1991: EWU 34, Idaho 31 (2OT)

EWU freshman Alex Lacson kicked a 37-yard field goal in the second overtime to clip the Vandals at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow.

The Eagles (3-5) scored in the first overtime after Mark Tenneson found Tony Brooks on a 25-yard connection. Idaho (4-4) answered with a 18-yard touchdown pass to Yo Murphy

Tenneseon had three touchdown passes to vault EWU.

1989: Idaho 41, EWU 34

Former Coeur d’Alene High star and Seattle Seahawks quarterback John Freisz passed for 400 yards and three touchdowns, and the Vandals (9-3) held off the Eagles in Moscow.

Dominic Corr had 113 yards rushing for EWU (4-6), which trailed 21-7 to the eventual Big Sky champions before a late rally.

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