Idaho opened the 1921 season by travelling to Portland to battle the Oregon Ducks. In the 13 previous meetings between the two teams, Idaho had never come away with the victory. This year would be no different, although Idaho would battle valiantly and come away with a tie. Idaho blocked an Oregon punt and recovered the ball for a touchdown resulting in Idaho’s only score of the game. Oregon would tie the game shortly thereafter for the only other score of the afternoon. The game would end in a 7-7 tie.
The Vandals didn’t fare so well in the second game of the season. It was the annual battle of the Palouse with Idaho visiting Pullman. WSU handled Idaho easily and won 20-3. Idaho took an early 3-0 lead after one quarter, but WSU was too much for Idaho and scored a touchdown in each of the following three quarters.
Idaho would fall again in the third contest of the season by the score of 17-7 to regional foe Utah. The game would be played in Salt Lake City. Beautiful weather greeted the Vandals and Idaho gave the home team all they could handle. Unfortunately the breaks of the game went Utah’s way and Idaho fell before the Utahans.
Idaho would return home in week 4 to host Montana. Although Idaho’s media guide shows this as an away game, it occurred in Moscow. By all accounts it was an easy victory for Idaho. Montana’s only score came via an interception. Meanwhile, Idaho put up 35 points in a rout of their rivals from Montana.
Idaho’s Armistice Day game in Boise was against the Cowboys from Wyoming. Idaho was heavily favored to beat Wyoming and delivered on those expectations. The governors of Idaho and Wyoming were expected to be in attendance for the holiday game. Why Idaho has given up on an event with such potential is a glaring weakness in Vandal athletics of today.
In a major regional game Idaho blanked Gonzaga 6-0. In what was a punters duel, Idaho recovered a fumble for the only score of the game. These regional opponents are important for student and local interest. Gonzaga doesn’t immediately come to mind when thinking of Idaho’s main rivals, but the bulldog faithful burnt Idaho in effigy at their bonfire and pep rally the day before the game. With the victory Idaho had won 6 out of 8 from the team from Spokane. More than 1500 fans braved near-zero temperatures at the Spokane County Fairgrounds to see the bulldogs fall to the mighty Vandals.
Idaho’s final two games – a loss to Whitman and victory over the 9th Army Corps from Washington – were hardly mentioned in the papers. Neither the Spokesman or Chronicle published scores from what I could find. At least we have this photo, one of the more famous old photos, documenting Idaho’s win over Army in picturesque Maclean Field.
1921 would also mark coach Thomas Kelley’s final season with Idaho. He would move on to coach at Missouri where he woudl make a whopping $4500 compared to the $4000 Idaho was offering.
The end of the 1921 season saw the admittance of Idaho and USC into the Pacific Coast Conference. USC had been rejected by the league just one year prior. The league’s official stance was that USC involved too much travel for the northern schools. But, USC was of the opinion that the rejection was based on USC defeating many of the league’s teams. Since Idaho’s chances of admittance seemed slim, one can only assume that Idaho was admitted to prevent the league’s balance of power from shifting too much in the direction of the southern schools.