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Sports >  Idaho football

Things to watch: Idaho stacks up rare back-to-back wins ahead of hosting Northern Colorado

Sept. 30, 2022 Updated Fri., Sept. 30, 2022 at 11:36 p.m.

By Peter Harriman For The Spokesman-Review

MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho fans have been here before.

Supposedly outgunned Vandals teams have risen up and knocked off nationally ranked Big Sky Conference foes or put a scare into them before, but Idaho hasn’t been able to sustain momentum.

In 2018, the Vandals beat former Big Sky member North Dakota 31-27 in Moscow, but a week later fell to Montana 46-27. A year later, they beat Eastern Washington 35-27, but followed up with a 27-24 road loss to Northern Colorado.

Last year, Idaho played subsequent Football Championship Subdivision teams UC Davis and Montana State within a touchdown in close losses in an ultimately disappointing 4-7 season (3-5 in conference).

But under new coach Jason Eck, the Vandals are coming into homecoming Saturday against Northern Colorado 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Sky. They took Washington State to the wire in a season-opening 24-17 loss; played respectably against Indiana in a 35-22 defeat; toppled Drake 42-14; and held off Northern Arizona 27-10 while shutting out the Lumberjacks in the second half.

This is the first time since 2016 Idaho has stacked up back-to-back victories.

Quarterback Gevani McCoy has the fifth-best completion percentage in FCS at 70.4 and has thrown for 775 yards and six touchdowns. After being slowed by injuries last season, Jermaine Jackson ranks third in FCS with 18.2 yards per reception. Hayden Hatten, and Terez Traynor are also standout receivers who have battled injuries, but both were back at practice this week.

Here are three things to watch as the Vandals take on Northern Colorado (2-2, 1-0).

1. Bears are getting organized. Following losses in their first two games to Houston Baptist and Wyoming, the Bears have wins against Lamar (21-14) and Idaho State (35-14). Elijah Dotson was the conference’s special teams player of the week following his performance against ISU, in which he returned a punt 82 yards for a score. He also rushed for 102 yards on 24 carries and had 24 receiving yards. Elijah Anderson-Taylor led the Bears with 13 tackles and a scoop-and-score fumble recovery. After quarterback Dylan McCaffrey missed significant time early this year, he settled into the lineup against ISU, completing 23 of 28 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown. His favorite target was Alec Pell, with six catches for 86 yards.

2. Lights-out Idaho defense. The Vandals have forced eight takeaways against just two turnovers this season, the fifth-best turnover margin in FCS. Idaho also leads the division in time of possession. Linebacker Paul Moala forced a fumble against WSU, made a goal-line tackle against Indiana and intercepted a pass against Drake. Defensive back Murvin Kenyon forced a fumble against Indiana and had an interception against Drake, Juliano Falaniko has seven tackles and a sack this year. Safety Mathias Bertram made nine tackles against WSU and senior linebacker Fa’Avae Fa’Avae leads Idaho with 39 total tackles. He has been the leading tackler for the Vandals in every game.

3. Ricardo Chavez doesn’t miss. The Idaho junior transfer from Riverside (California) City College is 8 for 8 on field goals this season, with a long of 44 yards against Drake. He kicked four against Drake and following up with a pair against NAU. He also serves as punter, averaging 40.8 yards .

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