With walk-on transfer quarterback Ken Hobart running the veer offense, the Vandals finished 6-5 in the regular season and 4-3 in the Big Sky to finish fourth. Idaho lost to rivalBoise State for the fourth straight year. BSU won the Big Sky title in 1980 and competed in the four team Division I-AA playoffs; the Broncos won the finals over defending champion Eastern Kentucky.
It was the first winning season for the Vandals since 1976 and only the fourth winning record for the football program in over four decades.
Transfer walk-on quarterback Ken Hobart was a four-year starter. He quickly adjusted from an option quarterback in the veer under Davitch to a prolific passer under new head coach Dennis Erickson in 1982. He led the Vandals to a 9-4 record in 1982 and an 8-3 record in 1983 as a fifth-year senior, when he was a Division I-AA All-American. Hobart played a season in the USFL with Jacksonville in 1984 and several in the CFL.
Glen White was the Vandals' leading rusher during his junior season in 1979, the best season by a UI running back in the 1970s. He missed the opener but gained 889 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per carry in the final ten games as the team finished at 4-7. While in off-season training in February he felt weakness and was sent to Seattle for further testing. Diagnosed with aplastic anemia, he battled it for several months until his death from complications on August 9 at an Oklahoma City hospital, near his parents' home at Fort Sill. White, age 22, was posthumously designated an honorary team captain for all 11 games and his Vandal teammates wore his number 32 on the left side of their helmets during the 1980 season.