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Weighty game on the Palouse

It’s hard to say when the last time the Kibbie Dome staged such a meaningful Idaho football game. To put it mildly, it’s been a pretty dry last few years — or decade.

Keep reading for thoughts and links about the Vandals’ bout with Colorado State (7:30 p.m., ESPNU).

We’ll start with the blurb we had in today’s Spokesman.

KICKOFF: 7:30 p.m. at Kibbie Dome, Moscow, Idaho

Records: CSU 3-1; UI 3-1

TV/Radio: ESPNU/1080-AM

Overview: This isn’t a late-season conference clash or rivalry game, but the matchup still feels weighty. At least from Idaho’s perspective. A capacity Dad’s Weekend crowd is expected at the Kibbie Dome, and a win for the Vandals would be a fitting end to what’s been a banner non-conference slate. “I would love to see this place just throbbing and pulsing,” UI tailback DeMaundray Woolridge said. “It will be a great atmosphere for us.” Some extra commotion can only help Idaho as it faces what, by coach Robb Akey’s estimation, is its most complete opponent. CSU has an adept passer in Grant Stucker (948 yards, six TDs), a big-play receiver in Rashaun Greer (23.2 yards per catch) and a capable, balanced running attack. “These guys have all the respect in the world from us,” Akey said.

A key item that didn’t make it in the short advance was what I reported yesterday morning right here — Daniel Hardy, according to a source, will miss tonight’s game with a lacerated kidney. The absence of Idaho’s best tight end, and perhaps Nathan Enderle’s surest target, is a big blow no doubt. But the strength of the Vandals is a diversity of weapons — from Eric Greenwod, Preston Davis, Max Komar and Mo Shaw, to the full complement of tailbacks.
For more on the Vandals, here’s a column from the Idaho Statesman’s Brian Murphy and a short feature on the offensive line. The Lewiston Tribune has this preview (subscription required) and here’s an advance from The Coloradoan.

As you can read in the last link from Kelly Lyell, these are two pretty balanced offensive units. The Rams, to use Akey’s terminology, will try to blend it as much as possible — and they’ll try to shake off a miserable start last week versus BYU that sunk them.

For that reason, expect Colorado State to come out super sharp in the early moments. And expect them to test Idaho downfield. The Vandals’ secondary has been up and down all year; it helped last week that Northern Illinois was a run-heavy team.

Akey made it clear he would like to see CSU have to pass the ball because its running game is ineffective. “They’d like to have their running game work. They’re going to try to create the the big play. They’ve got a good big-play receiver, and he had a rough week last week. They have another receiver that showed up with a bunch of big catches that stepped up when he had the opportunity. I’d like to handle the running game so it will be a less of a blend.”

The Rams are a hard team to figure. They beat Colorado and barely escaped against Weber State -- tape of that game surely made its rounds in the UI coaches' offices this week -- and then took advantage of five turnovers to rock Nevada. Both CSU and Idaho have been opportunistic (as mentioned above, both haven't lost a fumble yet), so the team that limits mistakes will probably win.

A few interesting tidbits to leave you with: This will be Idaho's first night home game since hosting Hawaii in 2005 (an ugly 24-0 loss). And Idaho will try to win three games in a row for the first time since Dennis Erickson's 2006 club that feasted on weak WAC competition -- Utah State, New Mexico State, La Tech -- to put a short winning streak together. That skein was abruptly ended by Boise State at the Dome. Come to think of it, that was probably the last game of significance for the Vandals in Moscow.

We'll be back with more during and after the game.

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