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The Front Row with MARK NELKE April 18, 2010

| April 18, 2010 9:00 PM

It's been said there are two seasons at the University of Idaho - football season and spring football season.

OK, stop giggling. Maybe football in Moscow is not quite received with the fervor as it is, say, in the Southeastern Conference.

But, with the Vandals coming off their best season in 11 years, most of the key players back from last year, and Boise State coming to town in November, there's definitely optimism in Moscow these days.

In its attempt to get in the spirit, the Western Athletic Conference sent out its 2010 football spring preview recently. A few things jumped out:

Boise State, which went 14-0 last season, has the longest winning streak among WAC teams at 14 games. Guess who has the second-longest streak?

Don't think too hard. Three teams are tied with one-game winning streaks - Idaho, which won the Humanitarian Bowl; Utah State, which beat Idaho in the regular-season finale; and Louisiana Tech, which beat San Jose State in its season finale.

The longest losing streak? New Mexico State, which lost its last seven after beating Utah State to square its record at 3-3. The Aggies also have lost a league-high six straight WAC games. Next is Idaho, which dropped its final three WAC games to Fresno State, Boise State and Utah State.

Boise State, which finished fourth in last year's final AP and ESPN/USA Today polls, has the longest winning streak in WAC games, at 16, last losing at Hawaii late in the 2008 season. The second-longest winning streak in conference play? Strangely enough, it is three by Hawaii, which won its last three WAC games after starting out 0-5 in conference play.

Of the 26 first-team all-WAC players in 2009, 17 are expected to return, including five from Boise State - quarterback Kellen Moore, wide receivers Austin Pettis and Titus Young, offensive lineman Nate Potter and defensive end Ryan Winterswyk. Idaho returns one first-team all-WAC player in senior safety Shiloh Keo. One who could be back but won't is Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews, who ran for 1,808 yards and 19 touchdowns last year, then passed up his senior season for the NFL draft.

From 2001 through '09, Boise State has the most wins of any FBS team west of the Mississippi River over that span with 102. Texas is next with 101, with USC and Oklahoma tied for third with 97. Hawaii is tied for eighth with Oregon and Iowa with 77, and Fresno State is 11th with 74.

The others - TCU is fifth with 85 wins, followed by Utah with 82 and Texas Tech with 78.

Fresno State has blocked 49 kicks since 2002, the most in the nation over that span. ... Utah State, whose four wins were its most in a season since 2002, has named the field at Romney Stadium "Merlin Olsen Field," honoring one of the best football players in school history. Olsen died of cancer last month at age 69. ... Hawaii will have two first-year coordinators this fall. Former quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich will be offensive coordinator, and defensive line coach Dave Aranda moves to defensive coordinator. ... First-year San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre and the Spartans make their debut Sept. 4 at defending national champion Alabama. ... You probably knew the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, at 16,000 seats, is the smallest football stadium in the WAC. The second-smallest - Utah State's Romney Stadium (25,513). The largest - Aloha Stadium in Honolulu (50,000).

One thing is missing in the preview - where teams will finish next season. Idaho (8-3, 4-4) finished fourth last year, behind Boise State (14-0, 8-0), Nevada (8-5, 7-1) and Fresno State (8-5, 6-2). Idaho lost to the three teams that finished above it last year; the Vandals will have to beat at least one of them this fall to climb higher than fourth. Idaho gets Nevada and Boise State at home this year.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via e-mail at mnelke@cdapress.com.

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