MOSCOW, Idaho – Down to its last two games, Idaho has one final chance to show what could have been.
The Vandals (3-6, 2-4 Big Sky Conference) have been beaten by the cream of the crop of the conference this year, having fallen to UC Davis, Eastern Washington and Montana, all nationally ranked when they played.
The only blowout (71-21) was against EWU. The Vandals also dropped a close one (38-31) to Northern Arizona.
The Vandals conclude their season at Idaho State (1-8, 1-5) on Nov. 20, but Saturday they are in Bozeman facing third-ranked Montana State (8-1, 6-0).
The Bobcats are big favorites but have lately had their hands full against Idaho. The last time they played, in 2018, also in Bozeman and also in November, MSU eked out a 24-23 win.
Here are three things to watch as the Vandals and Bobcats go at it again.
1. Is it a trap? The Bobcats are riding the high of a 23-20 win against then-No. 5 EWU and are no doubt looking ahead to in-state foe Montana in their biggest game of the year on Nov. 20. But first they have to face Idaho. The Vandals tore it up against Southern Utah in Moscow one week ago when BSC Offensive Player of the Week Roshaun Johnson rushed for six touchdowns in a 42-24 win. Idaho has been forced by injuries to play with four quarterbacks over the course of the year, and that has hampered the offense. But the Vandals can bring it on the ground. They have run for 1,627 yards, an average of 4.7 yards per carry and third in the Big Sky behind MSU and UC Davis.
2. Battle of the linebackers: The last time Idaho and Montana State played, Troy Andersen was a formidable running quarterback for the Bobcats. He shifted to defense the following season and is now an All-America and All-Big Sky linebacker, with 71 tackles on a defense that has allowed the fewest yards and fewest points in the Big Sky this year. The Vandals counter with linebacker Tre Walker, also an All-American. Walker has 89 total tackles, including three for loss, and a forced fumble.
3. A showcase for receivers? The weather is not supposed to be terrible – overcast with a high close to 50 degrees. Idaho might have an opportunity to get a pair of star receivers involved in the game. Terez Traynor leads the Vandals with 46 catches for 640 yards and two touchdowns. Mekhi Stevenson has 25 catches for 301 yards and a score. After coming tantalizingly close to his first career 100-yard day against Northern Arizona two weeks ago, with 92 yards on nine catches, Stevenson is eager to reach triple digits with only two games remaining. Could today be the day?
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