Idaho was led by a new coach in 1947. Dixie Howell, who had played on the Alabama team that had beaten Stanford in the Rose Bowl, was Idaho’s new head coach. He brought with him a pass-heavy offense that resulted in a successful season by Idaho standards.
The season started out great for the Vandals with an expected win against Puget Sound. Then, when the mighty Vandals traveled to Palo Alto as heavy underdogs, Idaho came away with a huge upset over Stanford – the first in Idaho history.
It was possibly the biggest victory in Idaho history. Over 5000 fans greeted the Vandals as they returned from California. It created such a stir that Moscow schools were closed. Extra bleachers were needed for the next game, at home against Washington State. The game was expected to seat 23,000 and be the first sellout in Neale Stadium history. 23,000 is an impressive number considering the fact that in 1950 less than 11000 people called Moscow their home. Idaho played a tough game, but lost to the Cougars by the score of 7-0.
The excitement for the Vandals carried all the way to the end of the season. For the annual “southern homecoming” game in Boise, the vandals attracted 9,000 fans. Had seating been available, Idaho said they could have attracted as many as 12,000. Those who were able to get seats saw Idaho spoil an undefeated season for Utah. The Deseret News, which always seemed to employ the use of an entertaining turn of phrase, described Idaho as “playing higher than decontrolled food prices“. Even Utah’s newspaper covered Idaho’s southern homecoming, describing the crowd as “better than 8,000 in a stadium with a capacity of 5,000”.
Finishing 4-4, the Vandals had received an invitation to participate in the Pineapple Bowl in Honolulu. Idaho turned down the opportunity and would not appear in a bowl game until 1998.
Vandal legend Carl Kiilsgaard talks about the victories over Stanford and Utah in this video interview.