MOSCOW, Idaho – Isn’t the tuneup supposed to come before the conference matchup?
Indiana got handled by Big 10 foe Iowa 34-6 in a season-opening game last week.
The Hoosiers entertain Idaho today, but instead of perfecting its chops against the Football Championship Subdivision Vandals before taking on the Hawkeyes, Indiana is now eager to show its decisive defeat against Iowa was an aberration.
Lucky Vandals. In a game it was always expected to lose, Idaho now faces a motivated opponent – one that went 6-2 overall, 6-1 in the Big 10 and that played Ohio State within a touchdown last year.
But Idaho coach Paul Petrino, who has led the Vandals against the likes of Florida and Penn State in recent years, reiterated his accustomed message before Idaho goes on giant-killing forays. Playing the Hoosiers in Bloomington is a chance to grab the spotlight on a big stage, to play free, make plays, and build a highlight video to show grandkids.
“A lot of guys never get to play in a Big 10 stadium,” he said.
The Vandals will be playing Indiana for the first time. Idaho comes in with serious momentum. The Vandals overwhelmed overmatched Simon Fraser 68-0 in their home opener.
Freshman quarterback C.J. Jordan strengthened his case to be the starter once Idaho begins Big Sky Conference play, hitting on 7 of 12 passes for 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Simon Fraser and rushing for 61 yards and a score.
Mike Beaudry also threw for 116 yards, completing 10 of 15 throws.
Indiana might also see a lot of Idaho’s third quarterback, Zach Borisch. He rushed eight times for 34 yards against Simon Fraser. Since rushing for 205 yards against Eastern Washington last spring, Borisch has shown an uncanny ability to move the ball ahead in 5-yard increments or more.
The Simon Fraser game also showcased receivers Hayden Hatten, who caught a pair of passes for 106 yards and a touchdown; Connor Whitney, who turned his one catch into a 4-yard score; and Michael Noil, who caught four passes for 68 yards.
Idaho can also test Indiana’s defense on the ground. Roshaun Johnson, 235 pounds, ran for 87 yards and three touchdowns in the opening game. Freshman Elisha Cummings scorched Simon Fraser for 56 yards and a score, and Khalil Forehand also ran for a touchdown.
He didn’t get to show what he could do against Simon Fraser, because the Vandals never punted, but Caleb Lightbourn, an Oregon State transfer, has been getting impressive hang time and distance on kicks throughout preseason camp. Making the Hoosiers play on a long field can only help Idaho cope with Indiana’s team speed.
On defense, Idaho can show Indiana the kind of imposing front the Hoosiers are accustomed to seeing in the Big 10.
The Vandals are led by senior nose guard Rahsaan Crawford, at 5-foot-10, 308 pounds.
Redshirt junior Noah Elliss (6-4, 367) is probably as big as anyone in college football, and he led Idaho with eight tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss in the opening game.
All-America linebacker Tre Walker was right behind with seven tackles.
Charles Akanno, who was nearly unstoppable as an edge rusher before suffering a season-ending leg injury in 2019, appeared to have regained his quickness against Simon Fraser, Petrino said. Akanno made four tackles, including one for loss.
Idaho has adjusted several assistant coaches’ titles . Wide receivers coach Brian Reader is now the offensive coordinator, replacing Kris Cinkovich, who retired after last spring. Quarterbacks coach Charlie Molnar was promoted to assistant head coach, and running backs coach Pryce Tracy is now also the Vandals’ recruiting coordinator.