Idaho’s rivalry with Eastern Washington might be a Big Sky Conference marriage of convenience without, say, the historical resonance of the Vandals’ 118 years of battles with Montana. But the current generations of Vandals and Eagles are getting on board with viewing this as a featured game every year.
After splitting a home-and-home series last spring, with each team winning by a touchdown in its own stadium, the Vandals (2-3 overall, 1-1 Big Sky), are eager to take down second-ranked EWU in Cheney and continue the momentum of a season that gives indications of getting on track following a homecoming win against Portland State.
EWU, of course, wants to fend off the Vandals at home and put another hide on the wall of what is so far an undefeated season (6-0, 3-0).
Here are three things to watch.
1. The Vandals’ newcomers. Freshman Elisha Cummings, a surprisingly sturdy 170-pound running back with all-conference speed, leads the Vandals on the ground with 232 yards and a touchdown on 43 carries. Terez Traynor, a redshirt sophomore transfer from Western Kentucky, has stepped up after last spring’s leading receiver Hayden Hatten was injured. Traynor has caught 25 passes for 344 yards and a touchdown. Jermaine Jackson, a junior transfer from the College of San Mateo (California), was lost for the season with a knee injury after returning just two kicks last spring. He’s back, faster than ever. Jackson dipped a toe in the water against PSU with a 6-yard pass reception, and he stood out in practice in the week leading up to EWU with good hands and great acceleration.
2. The linebackers. Idaho’s strategy is to absorb blocking with interior pressure to allow elite linebackers like All-America Tre Walker and WSU transfer Fa’Avae Fa’Avae to be free to hunt. Against EWU last spring, Walker made 15 tackles, including one for loss, in the first game and came back with seven tackles in the rematch. Fa’Avae backed him with four tackles in the first game and five in the second. When Fa’Avae missed the PSU game last week with an injury, Hogan Hatten filled in with 10 tackles, including one for loss.
3. The kicking. Logan Prescott, a WSU transfer, has made just 1 of 3 field-goal attempts this fall and had a kick blocked against UC Davis. Returning to the form that allowed him to split the uprights on a 47-yard attempt against UC Davis last spring could be the difference for the Vandals against the Eagles if the game is close in the fourth quarter.
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