Things to watch: Idaho could rely on defense to put away pesky Eastern Washington
Nov. 4, 2022 Updated Fri., Nov. 4, 2022 at 5:25 p.m.
MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho (5-3, 4-1 Big Sky Conference), ranked 15th in the Football Championship Subdivision, can ensure its first winning season since 2016 – when it went 9-4 – on Saturday.
The Vandals host Eastern Washington, which defeated them 71-21 last year.
But the Eagles (2-6, 1-4) are mired in a rare losing season . All that is left for them is to be spoilers, but the Vandals still have playoff aspirations, and a victory keeps those advancing. Here are three things to watch.
Can the Vandals eliminate the drama and secure a win early? Idaho redshirt freshman quarterback Gevani McCoy has completed 140 of 204 passes this year for 1,814 yards and 19 touchdowns, with three interceptions.
His favorite targets are Hayden Hatten and Jermaine Jackson. Hatten, 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, with great hands, is a challenge for defensive backs with eight touchdowns on 570 yards receiving and 42 receptions.
Jackson has caught four touchdowns and has 734 receiving yards on 37 receptions. Add speedy running backs Elisha Johnson, with four touchdowns and 226 yards rushing, and Anthony Woods, two touchdowns and 585 yards rushing, and the Vandals have a chance to leave the Eagles in the dust by the first half.
This could be helpful, because while EWU is struggling, it can scored. The Eagles rocked second-ranked Sacramento State with three consecutive second-quarter touchdowns before falling 52-28.
EWU’s Gunner Talkington has thrown for 20 touchdowns and Efton Chism III leads them with an average of 6.4 catches per game.
Will Idaho’s defense dominate? Senior linebacker Fa’Avae Fa’Avae is second in the Big Sky with 71 tackles. Linebacker Paul Moala and boundary safety Tommy McCormick pace the Vandals with four interceptions apiece, and field safety Murvin Kenion III is right behind with three.
Idaho has the third-best team defense in the conference, giving up 316 yards of offense per game.
The Zach Borisch factor. In his senior season, Borisch has become a lightly used slot receiver.
But during his career he has played multiple positions on both sides of the ball. In spring 2021, as the emergency fourth-string quarterback, he was called into action against ninth-ranked EWU when the three QBs ahead of him were either injured or in COVID protocol.
Borisch accounted for 205 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 33 attempts as EWU barely held off the Vandals 38-31.
Presumably, Borisch has not forgotten how he did that. Idaho is well served with McCoy at quarterback, but should the Vandals decide to use Borisch as a change of pace, they can be confident he can run a quarterback draw.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.