CALDWELL — To the College of Idaho football team, the seeds of its current nine-game winning streak were planted in last season’s 42-41 loss to Rocky Mountain.
In that Sept. 22, 2018 game, the Yotes squandered a 41-28 lead in the final six minutes to fall to 0-5 on the season. For many teams, it that would have been enough to crush them. But the Yotes took the following bye week to regroup and came out with a 28-7 win against Carroll two weeks later.
They haven’t lost in the last 371 days since.
The Yotes (3-0, 3-0 Frontier Conference) have an opportunity to avenge their last loss and extend the second-longest winning streak in program history today when they take a trip to Billings, Montana, to take on the Battlin’ Bears (2-2, 1-2).
“We’ve said things here and there to each other, just the players,” said senior quarterback Darius-James Peterson. “It’s another game, but we do have it in the back of our mind, what happened last year. We really want to get after them.”
Peterson accounted for 412 yards and six touchdowns in the game against Rocky Mountain, as the Yotes held a two-possession lead when an interception gave the Battlin’ Bears the ball on the College of Idaho side of the field. Three plays later, a 46-yard touchdown pass cut the lead to six points. After an onside kick recovery, Rocky Mountain tied the game on a 7-yard touchdown pass and took the lead on the extra point.
The Yotes’ following drive came up three yards short on a fourth down pass at the Rocky Mountain 33-yard line and the Battlin’ Bears were able to run the clock out.
“That was probably the most agonizing loss I’ve ever had in my football career,” said senior defensive end Landon Clark-Gammell, who had two tackles for a loss and a sack. “We were 0-4 going into that game and we thought we were the better team, thought we were really going to go get that one. Losing that one, it really just changed our mindset for the rest of the year and every win made that loss hurt a little more. Everyone now is looking back and going ‘man, we got to go out there and get those guys back from last year.’”
At a player meeting the week following the game, the team addressed failures at the end of the game. They were determined to prove that wasn’t who they were as a team. They were tired of losing and were tired of being looked at like losers.
That sparked a six-game winning streak to end the season, which included an overtime win at Montana Tech and a 17-14 win at Montana Western where the Yotes converted on a fourth-and-2 with a minute left to secure the victory.
“I believe leadership within the team is the key,” said College of Idaho coach Mike Moroski. “If you have the leaders believing in what we’re doing, I don’t believe it’s best for the head coach to be the focal point of the operation. I have my responsibilities, but part of that is building leaders. So to see them come together, I know what they’re going to say, because I trust them implicitly.”
The Battlin’ Bears were the only team in the Frontier Conference the Yotes didn’t beat last year. Add in the fact that by the end of the season Rocky Mountain was the Frontier Conference champions, and that the Yotes were one game behind them in the league standings, and it gives the College of Idaho all the more motivation for today’s game.
“They kind of took the ring and the conference championship and the playoff berth last year from us,” said Clark-Gammell. “Looking back at it, when we were 0-4 in that game, it really didn’t feel like it was that big of a game. But that essentially decided the conference championship. So now looking back, we look at it like that.”