The season's stretch drive has arrived, and luckily for Idaho, it gets to play three of the last four games at the Kibbie Dome. First up: This afternoon against Louisiana Tech for a homecoming tilt. Keep reading for more about the game (2 p.m., ESPN Regional).
We'll start as usual with the blurb we had in today's Spokesman:
KICKOFF: 2 p.m. at Moscow, Idaho, Kibbie Dome
Records: UI 6-2, 3-1 WAC; Louisiana Tech 3-4, 2-2
TV/Radio: ESPN Regional/1080-AM
Overview: For the Vandals, today is all about regaining some of the season’s luster after last week’s forgettable defensive showing. They were scorched for 484 rushing yards and 70 points at Nevada. Now they return for homecoming to take on a midtier WAC opponent in Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs have been a bit of a mystery, looking great against Hawaii and New Mexico State at home and starting 0-4 on the road. Daniel Porter fuels a balanced offense and D’Anthony Smith is a heralded defensive tackle who headlines an athletic defense. Smith will be pitted against fellow All-America candidate Mike Iupati, UI’s left guard. “We’ll have a nice little showdown within the showdown,” Vandals coach Robb Akey said. This is Idaho’s best chance at snatching an all-important seventh win until the last week of the season. Fresno State and Boise State are on tap the next two weeks. The Vandals could be without starting cornerback Isaac Butts (hamstring) while fellow cornerback Aaron Grymes is expected to play with a cast after a hand fracture.
Next, here are some links from other papers about today's game.
- The Idaho Statesman has this piece on Maurice Shaw.
- The Lewiston Tribune has this nice advance.
- The Monroe News Star has this preview, focusing on Idaho's improvement.
- ESPN.com this little blurb about Robb Akey.
It will be very intriguing to see how Idaho rebounds after last week's nightmarish second half at Nevada. It gave up 46 points in the final two periods and didn't stop the Wolf Pack once. But Nevada's Pistol offense is much trickier to defend than La. Tech's more traditional scheme. The thing is, the Bulldogs have a much more physical rushing attack -- especially with Daniel Porter busting through would-be tacklers.
Here's what defensive coordinator Mark Criner had to say about the team responded earlier in the week in practice: "You could see a little bit more focus in what they were doing and we’re a young defense. We’ve done some really good things throughout the year, we’ve done some average things and we’ve done some things that haven’t been very good. Last Saturday was one of those days. And this Saturday has got to become a better one."
The consensus is that La. Tech will try to grind it out on the ground. In fact, Akey said as much this week. But my guess is that the Bulldogs will test Idaho's shaky and banged-up secondary pretty quickly in this one. As I wrote in the above blurb, Isaac Butts is all but assured of not playing and Aaron Grymes will have a hefty cast on his right hand.
Another key factor could be special teams. Phillip Livas returned a touchdown last week for the Bulldogs, and Idaho's return coverage has been spotty at times. A big play from either club's special teams units could swing this one.
We'll be back during and after the game with more. Enjoy.