When Jason Eck took over the University of Idaho football team, he didn’t really know what to expect from the Vandals.
“I think anytime you have a new staff and you’re coaching in a new conference, you’re not sure exactly where you’ll be,” Eck said during a Monday press conference. “Football is just very tough to gauge with spring ball and fall camp, because you go No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense, and one side is gonna win every day. And you don’t know if that side’s winning because you’re good on that side of the ball or the other side’s bad.”
Seven games into the 2022 season, Eck now knows he’s got an FCS playoff contender.
The No. 14 Vandals (5-2, 4-0) face their toughest test yet when they travel to second-ranked Sacramento State (7-0, 4-0) for a 7 p.m. Mountain time Big Sky contest at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, California on Saturday. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.
Idaho has knocked off one ranked team on the road this season, beating then-No. 3 Montana 30-23 on Oct. 15 in Missoula.
“I think our team has the confidence that when we play well, we’re gonna have success,” Eck said. “We haven’t had a lot of times this year where we’re doing the right things and people are stuffing us. But we’ve got to execute. We’ve got to play really hard, because as big of a game as this is for us, it’s just as big of a game for Sac State.
“It’s two undefeated teams. I don’t think this is a game we’re going to want more than they do or anything. They’re gonna want this one bad, too.”
At 4-0 in the Big Sky, the Vandals have a chance to improve to 5-0 in league play. The last time that happened? President Bush was in office — the first President Bush. It was 1989.
They already have more conference wins than in any season since 2016, when Idaho went 6-2 in the Sun Belt.
Idaho is coming off a 56-21 win over Portland State in which quarterback Gevani McCoy threw for four touchdowns and caught another, and the Vandals racked up a season-high 309 yards rushing — including getting 139 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries from Anthony Woods.
It was the first time the Vandals had run for more than 300 yards in a game against a Division I opponent since rushing for 328 against North Texas during the 2004 season.
But the game was 21-21 at halftime, so it took a big second half to secure the win.
“It was a little bit of a realization for our guys when you have a big win the week before, sometimes maybe your inner self thinks the next week’s gonna be easier,” Eck said. “But really it isn’t. You don’t get any credit. Because we won by seven against Montana, we couldn’t carry over six of those points we didn’t need to the next week.
“If anything, I think those teams are more motivated. It helps our motivation though when you’re going to play a 7-0 Sac State team because we better play good, because they’ve been embarrassing people. They’ll embarrass you if you don’t play well.”