Idaho Gets Last Laugh Against Nevada

Twice abandoned by Nevada in conference realignment, Idaho finally got revenge against the Wolf Pack in a dominant victory Saturday.

Idaho defeated Nevada 33-6 on Saturday
Source: Jason Bean/RGJ

"Til death or conference realignment do us part." These are the vows that Nevada and Idaho should have taken when they first became members of the same conference in 1996. Idaho has always been on the losing end of conference realignment since they moved up to FBS in 1996, while Nevada continued their ascent to improving their conference home.

Idaho joined Nevada in the Big West in 1996 when the Vandals moved from the FCS Big Sky to FBS. In 2001 after the Big West discontinued football, both programs' futures went in different directions. Nevada joined a declining but still strong Western Athletic Conference, while Idaho joined a hodge-podge of misfit schools called the Sun Belt. Others in FBS looked down upon the league that conferences like the WAC wanted nothing to do with playing the league in bowl games.

Four years later, Idaho reunited with their former Big West rivals in 2005 when they joined the WAC after the conference lost four schools to Conference USA. During both schools' tenures in the WAC, Nevada dominated the series. From 2005-2011, Nevada won all seven meetings by an average score of 54-17. To add insult to injury, Nevada won the last meeting in 2011 before the Wolf Pack left the Vandals behind for the Mountain West, 56-3.

Nevada is part of the reason why Idaho is back in the FCS. The Wolf Pack was one of six schools to leave the WAC for the Mountain West from 2011 to 2012 causing it to soon disband. The WAC's dissolution of football and the Mountain West's rejection of the Vandals sent them on a five year vagabond journey to independence and back to the Sun Belt before the Sun Belt kicked them and New Mexico State out of the conference.

Additionally, Nevada seemed to always spoil Idaho's best seasons. Lone Big West loss in Idaho's 1999 conference-winning and Humanitarian Bowl champion season was a 58-23 loss to Nevada in the Kibbie Dome. Ten years later, Idaho found itself in the Humanitarian Bowl again, but not before allowing 662 yards and losing 70-45 to the Wolf Pack.

All of this makes Idaho's embarrassment of Nevada so much sweeter. Saturday, the Vandals handed Nevada its first loss in the series since 1999 and its worst loss since a 42-22 win over the Wolf Pack in 1989. Idaho's conference situation is unlikely to change, but they proved that revenge is a dish best served cold and after conference realignment.