Idaho no longer soft touch

October 14, 2009, 3:29 PM HST · Updated October 14, 3:29 PM
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By Fred Guzman
MauiNow.com

Idaho used to be regarded as a designated win on the schedule of every Western Athletic Conference team. Note the “used to be,” because the Vandals are one of biggest surprises in all of college football this year.

The former doormat is 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the WAC following a last-minute 29-25 road win over San Jose State last week.

It was Idaho’s fourth straight win, the last three coming against bowl-eligible teams from a year ago — Northern Illinois, Colorado State and San Jose State.

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So, Idaho has lots of momentum and is 11.5-point favorite going into Saturday’s home game against Hawaii, losers of three straight following a 42-17 spanking at home at the hands of Fresno State.

Baldwin graduate JoJo Dickson is playing a big role in Idaho’s resurgence after going 2-10 last season and claiming only three wins in coach Robb Akey’s first two years on the job.

The junior linebacker is the team’s second-leading tackler with 33. Dickson has also intercepted a pair of passes, one that led to a field goal last week, and, in an earlier game, returned a pick 74 yards for a score in a win over San Diego State to earn WAC defensive player of the week.

Among the several other players from Hawaii on the roster is former Damien star Kama Bailey, a dangerous kickoff return specialist.

Idaho has improved firepower, led by tailbacks DeMaundray Woolridge, a 5-9, 241-pounder, and Princeton McCarty.

While things are looking up for Idaho, that’s hardly the case for UH.

With quarterback Greg Alexander, Hawaii was a team that would have to scramble to collect the required seven wins to become bowl eligible. Without him for the rest of the season, UH chances of earning a berth in the Hawaii Bowl appear remote, indeed.

That’s not good news for the cash-strapped UH athletic department. Or, for that matter, organizers of the Hawaii Bowl, who could end up with a Christmas Eve match-up between mainland teams when travel to the islands is down because of the economic times.

Hawaii’s shortcoming were all painfully evident during Saturday’s loss to Fresno State.

UH struggled in all phases. Two breakdowns on special teams – a blocked field-goal attempt and a muffed punt return – set up two touchdowns. On defense, UH allowed 277 rushing yards. On offense, one drive ended with an end-zone interception; another imploded because of five penalties, including two holding violations.

Replacement QB Brant Moniz threw for 283 yards and two scores, but completed just 24 of 52 and suffered a pair of picks. But his receivers dropped four passes, and a potential TD pass to Greg Salas was nullified because of a holding call.

The loss dropped Hawaii’s record to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the WAC.

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