MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho’s rout (71-21) at the hands of Eastern Washington last week may seem like its worst game.
But in 1975, on a November Saturday in Martin Stadium, when second-year coach Ed Troxel’s Vandals were struggling in the latter stages of a desultory 4-5-2 season, they were steamrolled by Washington State 84-27.
It doesn’t get much worse than that.
The following week, however, Idaho ended the year at home defeating Northern Illinois 25-24. The next season, the Vandals rallied to a 7-4 record, 5-1 in the Big Sky Conference.
So it’s hardly outside the realm of possibility that Idaho (2-4, 1-2) can regroup against Montana (4-2, 1-2), which opened the year with soaring hopes of a national championship and an upset win against Washington but has since returned to earth with a pair of conference losses to EWU and Sacramento State.
Here are three things to look for when Idaho entertains Montana in the Kibbie Dome Saturday.
1. Can either team use its receivers? Idaho and Montana have game-changing receivers in the likes of Terez Traynor (23 catches for 326 yards and a touchdown), Michael Noil (11 receptions for 114 yards) and Mekhi Stevenson (seven catches for 106 yards) for the Vandals, and Samuel Akem (19 receptions, 275 yards and three touchdowns), Mitch Roberts (23 receptions, 245 yards and a touchdown) and Cole Grossman (19 catches, 192 yards and a touchdown) for the Grizzlies. Injuries, however, have been hard on quarterbacks, and the Vandals and Grizzlies are expected to go with inexperienced passers. For Idaho, Zach Borisch has thrown only eight times, completing five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Gevani McCoy, in his lone game against EWU, completed 7 of 14 passes for 82 yards, with a pair of interceptions.
Montana isn’t in much better shape. Season starter Camron Humphrey was injured against EWU on Oct. 2. His replacement, Kris Brown, threw for only 188 yards, with an interception, in the Grizzlies’ most recent outing, a 28-21 loss to Sacramento State at home.
2. If not through the air, how will offenses score? Montana’s top rusher, Xavier Harris, has carried 77 times for 396 yards and a touchdown, and Junior Bergen has run for 181 yards and a score on 43 attempts.
Idaho counters with explosive freshman Elisha Cummings (241 yards and a touchdown on 46 attempts), 250-pound touchdown maker Aundre Carter (161 yards on 34 rushes with six touchdown) and Borisch, who has taken off 59 times for 317 yards and four touchdowns, highlighted by a 75-yard scoring run against the Eagles.
3. Trickery. Knowing that feet may be more valuable than arms, Idaho has worked wildcat options in practice leading up to the Montana game.
Roshaun Johnson, 235-pound junior running back, has been held relatively in check since an 87-yard, three-touchdown effort in the season-opening win against Simon Fraser. But the spotlight might turn to him again against the Grizzlies.
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