1981 Idaho Vandals football
Idaho Vandals logo.svg
ConferenceBig Sky Conference
Record3–8 (0–7 Big Sky)
Head coach
Offensive coordinatorBill Tripp (4th season)
Offensive schemeVeer
Defensive coordinatorLeland Kendall (2nd season)
Home stadiumKibbie Dome
Seasons
← 1980
1982 →
1981 Big Sky Conference football standings
Conf Overall
Team W   L   T W   L   T
No. 2 Idaho State $^ 6 1 0 12 1 0
No. 5 Boise State ^ 6 1 0 10 3 0
Montana 5 2 0 7 3 0
Nevada 4 3 0 7 4 0
Weber State 4 3 0 7 4 0
Northern Arizona 2 5 0 4 7 0
Montana State 1 6 0 3 7 0
Idaho 0 7 0 3 8 0
  • $ – Conference champion
  • ^ – NCAA Division I-AA playoff participant
Rankings from NCAA Division I-AA Poll

The 1981 Idaho Vandals football team represented the University of Idaho in the 1981 NCAA Division I-AA football season. The Vandals, led by fourth-year head coach Jerry Davitch, were members of the Big Sky Conference and played their home games at the Kibbie Dome, an indoor facility on campus in Moscow, Idaho.

Led by sophomore quarterback Ken Hobart in the veer offense, the Vandals finished 3–8 in the regular season but were winless in the Big Sky. In the season finale, Idaho lost to rival Boise State for the fifth straight year, but it was the Broncos' last win over Idaho until 1994, as the Vandals won a dozen straight in the interim. In their third and final win in early October, running back Russell Davis set a school record with 345 rushing yards at Portland State.[1][2][3]

In August, Sports Illustrated had picked the Vandals as one of the top teams in Division I-AA,[4][5] with high expectations to improve on the previous year's 6–5 record.[6] But after a fifth straight loss and no wins in six conference games, Davitch was fired nine days before the final game against Boise State.[7] Several weeks later Dennis Erickson was hired and immediately turned the Vandal program around in 1982, reaching the quarterfinals of the 12-team Division I-AA playoffs.

In 1981, Idaho State and Boise State were the top two teams in the Big Sky and both advanced to the 8-team Division I-AA playoffs, won their first-round games, and hosted the semifinals. Boise State was stopped by Eastern Kentucky, whom Idaho State defeated the following week in Texas to win the national title.

Notable players

Sophomore quarterback Ken Hobart of Kamiah changed from an option quarterback in the veer to a prolific passer under Erickson. He led the Vandals to a 9–4 record in 1982 and an 8–3 record in 1983 as a senior, when he was a Division I-AA All-American. Hobart played a season in the USFL with Jacksonville in 1984 and several in the CFL.

Junior linebacker Sam Merriman from Tucson[8] was selected in the seventh round (177th overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. A four-year starter for the Vandals, he played five seasons with Seattle, primarily on special teams.[9][10][11] A serious knee injury in a 1988 preseason game ended his playing career.[12][13][14]

Fallen teammate

At the close of the 1981 spring semester, Vandal wide receiver Joe Keogh, age 20, was killed in a mid-morning automobile accident. En route to Seattle on Saturday, May 16, he was one of four occupants in a vehicle westbound on Interstate 90, west of Ellensburg. The driver, a family friend, lost control and veered off the road and the car ended on its side. Keogh, a 1979 graduate of Gonzaga Prep in Spokane,[15] was the only fatality.[16][17]

Keogh's Vandal teammates wore his number 4 on the right side of their helmets during the 1981 season.[18][19] It was the second death for the football team in less than ten months: prior to his senior season, standout running back Glen White had died in August 1980 after a brief battle with aplastic anemia.[20]

Schedule

DateTimeOpponentSiteResultAttendance
Sep 057:30 p.m.Simon Fraser (NAIA)*W 52–710,500
Sep 126:30 p.m.at Weber StateL 21–4215,900
Sep 197:30 p.m.Northern Iowa*
  • Kibbie Dome
  • Moscow, Idaho
W 59–1412,000
Sep 2610:30 p.m.at Hawaii (Div. I-A)*L 6–2143,719
Oct 037:00 p.m.at Portland State (Div. II)*W 56–93,000
Oct 107:30 p.m.Montana
L 14–1611,000
Oct 171:00 p.m.at Montana StateL 28–2910,017
Oct 241:30 p.m.Nevadadagger
  • Kibbie Dome
  • Moscow, Idaho
L 14–2314,000
Oct 317:30 p.m.No. 3 Idaho State
  • Kibbie Dome
  • Moscow, Idaho
L 14–2410,500
Nov 076:30 p.m.at Northern ArizonaL 3–2410,500
Nov 217:30 p.m.No. 4 Boise State
L 43–4514,000

Roster

1981 Idaho Vandals football team roster
Players Coaches
Offense
Pos. # Name Class
RB 3 Russell Davis Sr
FL 7 Jack Klein Sr
QB 9 Ken Hobart So
QB 11 Mark Vigil So
QB 16 Carmen Espinoza
QB, RB 30 Dave Jeranko Sr
RB 34 Randy Zimmerman
RB 35 Wally Jones Jr
RB 33 Terry Idler Jr
RB 45 Tim Payne Jr
LG 56 Kima Sua Jr
RG 62 Steve Seman Jr
LT 63 Dave Frohnen Jr
C 64 Bob Wartella Jr
LG 72 Tony Cotta Sr
RT 74 Bruce Fery Sr
LT 76 Greg Diehl Jr
TE Tom Coombs Sr
TE 87 Kurt Vestman So
WR 88 Vic Wallace Jr
WR Curtis Johnson Jr
Defense
Pos. # Name Class
CB 2 Calvin Loveall Fr
CB 22 Mike Keough Sr
SS 25 Kelly Miller Sr
CB 41 Greg Jennings Sr
FS 42 Boyce Bailey So
CB 43 Howard Wilcox Jr
DE 44 Frank Moreno So
NG 47 Darby Lewis So
LB 52 Sam Merriman Jr
LB 57 Larry White So
DE Jay Hayes Sr
DT Dan Saso Sr
NG 79 Paul Griffin Jr
DT 85 John Fortner Jr
DE 90 Lloyd Williamson So
Special teams
Pos. # Name Class
KR 2 Calvin Loveall Fr
PK, P 6 Pete O'Brien Sr
Head coach
Coordinators/assistant coaches
  • Bill Tripp (OC)
  • Leland Kendall (DC)

Legend
  • (C) Team captain
  • (S) Suspended
  • (I) Ineligible
  • Injured
    Injured
  • Redshirt
    Redshirt
Source:[21][22][23][24][25][26][27]

All-conference

No Vandals made the first team; second team selections included quarterback Ken Hobart, wide receiver Jack Klein, and linebackers Sam Merriman and Jay Hayes.[28][29][30] Honorable mention were tackle Bruce Fery, guard Steve Seman, defensive linemen John Fortner and Dan Saso, and safety Kelly Miller.[29][30] Despite leading the conference with over 111 yards rushing per game, running back Russell Davis was overlooked.[29]

NFL Draft

Two Vandal seniors were selected in the 1982 NFL Draft,[31][32][33] which lasted twelve rounds (334 selections).

Player Position Round Overall Franchise
Tom Coombs TE 7th 181 New York Jets
Russell Davis RB 11th 305 Cincinnati Bengals

References

  1. ^ "Davis rewrites record book in UI romp". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). October 4, 1981. p. 2C.
  2. ^ "Idaho rocks Portland State". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire services. October 4, 1981. p. 6B.
  3. ^ "UI's Davis tops nation's rushers". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. October 6, 1981. p. 2C.
  4. ^ Mike, DeInagro (August 31, 1981). "Small colleges". Sports Illustrated. p. 64.
  5. ^ "Sports Illustrated picks Vandals to win Big Sky". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). September 1, 1981. p. 3C.
  6. ^ Missildine, Harry (September 4, 1981). "Jerry Davitch's big secret: 'Ignorance keeps us going'". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). p. 31.
  7. ^ Missildine, Harry; Blanchette, John (November 13, 1981). "UI fires Davitch". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). p. 29.
  8. ^ Ramsdell, Paul (November 27, 1982). "Lucky Sam Merriman". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). p. 1C.
  9. ^ "Sam Merriman". Database Football. Archived from the original on October 10, 2016. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  10. ^ Weaver, Dan (July 18, 1984). "Low in the draft, high on the team". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). p. 15.
  11. ^ Jacobson, Bryan (December 20, 1986). "Like riding a bike". Idahonian. (Moscow). p. 25.
  12. ^ "Seahawks lose Merriman for year". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. August 13, 1988. p. B1.
  13. ^ Pierce, Oliver (September 14, 1988). "Merriman isn't merry on sidelines". Idahonian. (Moscow). p. 9A.
  14. ^ "Seahawks cut Merriman, two others". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. April 18, 1989. p. C3.
  15. ^ "Football signings". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). February 22, 1979. p. 5B.
  16. ^ "Car accident kills UI football player". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). May 17, 1981. p. 3C.
  17. ^ "13 are killed on highways". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). May 18, 1981. p. 1.
  18. ^ Emerson, Paul (October 27, 1981). "An instinct for the ball". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. p. 1C.
  19. ^ "'96 Vandals will sport new look". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. April 28, 1996. p. 6B.
  20. ^ "UI running back dies". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. August 10, 1980. p. 2B.
  21. ^ "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). September 5, 1981. p. 5B.
  22. ^ "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). September 26, 1981. p. 3B.
  23. ^ "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). October 10, 1981. p. 5C.
  24. ^ "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). October 31, 1981. p. 3C.
  25. ^ "Probable starters". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). November 21, 1981. p. 1C.
  26. ^ Missildine, Harry (November 21, 1981). "Davitch's last Idaho hurrah". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). p. 17.
  27. ^ Stewart, Chuck (November 20, 1981). "Memories". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). p. 18.
  28. ^ "Former I.E. stars on Big Sky team". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). December 1, 1981. p. 18.
  29. ^ a b c "Idaho's Davis overlooked". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). staff and wire reports. December 2, 1981. p. 1B.
  30. ^ a b "Idaho not ignored on defense". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. December 3, 1981. p. 3B.
  31. ^ "NFL teams grab best local talent". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. April 29, 1981. p. 27.
  32. ^ "Four Cougars, two Vandals picked". Spokane Chronicle. (Washington). April 29, 1982. p. 35.
  33. ^ "NFL teams add Idaho players in late rounds". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). April 29, 1982. p. 1C.