The Idaho football team arrived in Laramie, Wyo., yesterday afternoon, so it will have had about 24 hours to acclimate itself to the altitude by today’s 2 p.m. local time kickoff (1 p.m. PDT) at Wyoming. But playing at 7,220 feet at War Memorial Stadium — the highest-elevated Division I football venue — isn’t what concerns Vandals coach Paul Petrino.
Brett Smith and the Cowboys’ offense are much big worries. Just like they were to Robb Akey and his staff at Idaho last September. We’ve got a primer on today’s rematch after the link.
KICKOFF: 1 p.m. PDT at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyo.
RECORDS: Idaho 0-1; Wyoming 0-1
TV/RADIO: Root Sports/1080-AM
OVERVIEW: Idaho coach Paul Petrino doesn’t usually tip his hand when it comes to personnel or schemes. But without prompting this week, he laid out the key components of the Vandals’ game plan against Wyoming: “I think we’ve got to run the ball against them and we’ve got to stop their quarterback,” he said. “That’s not a big secret.” The Cowboys’ quarterback, junior Brett Smith, passed for 383 yards and ran for 92 more last week at Nebraska. And last year, Smith torched Idaho for five touchdown passes, including the game-winner in overtime, at the Kibbie Dome. After the UI secondary was repeatedly out of position last week at North Texas, Petrino put the onus on the front seven to make Smith uncomfortable. The Vandals will also need to get more from their stable of running backs, led by Jerrel Brown and Richard Montgomery. Idaho tailbacks combined for just 16 carries in the season opener – the same as QB Chad Chalich, who was often chased from the pocket. Wyoming gave up 375 yards rushing to Nebraska in its opener.
LINE: Wyoming by 28 points
KEY MATCHUP: Brett Smith vs. Idaho’s secondary. North Texas put up 404 passing yards last week on the Vandals. Smith is more talented than UNT quarterback Derek Thompson, and Wyoming has a strong group of receivers. Starting corners Solomon Dixon and Delency Parham and safeties Trey Williams and Bradley Njoku will need help from UI’s front seven. “He’s their big stud and he can really play,” Petrino said of Smith. “So we better hit him. Get in his face or make him uncomfortable. If he’s not uncomfortable, it’s going to be a long night.”
WYOMING PLAYER TO KNOW: Safety Marqueston Huff had 18 tackles last week at Nebraska, tied for the most in the FBS. He's a hard hitter with good cover skills, and as Idaho offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich put it, Huff “cleans up mistakes, which is what great safeties do.”
INJURY REPORT: The biggest potential absence for Idaho is starting weak side offensive tackle Cody Elenz (knee). He left the UNT game after going down and didn't practice early this week. Petrino declined to talk about his injury on Tuesday, but if he can't go, redshirt freshman Calvin White will start in his place. White is raw, though he did fill in last week for Elenz. So he has some game experience.
WHAT IT MEANS: Petrino is gunning for his first win as a head coach. The Vandals are on the road against a quality opponent that almost upended 18th-ranked Nebraska. And they’re four-touchdown underdogs. So, yeah, this would qualify as a huge win if Idaho can spring the upset. With Northern Illinois next week at the Kibbie Dome, Washington State on Sept. 21 in Pullman and Temple at home on Sept. 28, the young Vandals could use a shot of confidence as they head back to the Palouse for three weeks.