Big Damm Preview: Game 3 – Southern Utah vs. Idaho 3/27/21

We’re back, just like we said we’d be back! The Idaho Vandals return to action this weekend to host the Southern Utah Thunderbirds in the third game of the 2021 spring season. This will be the third-straight (and final) home game of the season, a resulting quirk of postponing and rescheduling the Northern Arizona game to week 8 due to COVID-19 protocols.

Last Game:
Idaho has not played since March 6th, in a 27-12 loss to the currently 15th-ranked UC Davis Aggies.

Southern Utah picked up their first win of the season on March 13th, in a 34-24 victory over the Cal Poly Mustangs, in Beau Baldwin’s first game leading the Mustang program.

Previous Matchup:
October 20th, 2018 – Idaho beat Southern Utah 31-12 on homecoming weekend. Cutrell Haywood caught three touchdowns in a game Idaho never trailed.

Idaho’s Mike Beaudry comes into this game with underwhelming statistical numbers, completing just under 60 percent of his passes, three TDs to three INTs, and is last in the Big Sky in pass efficiency rating with a rating of 119.0. However, Beaudry is second in completions per game and third in passing yards per game across the Big Sky, averaging 24.5 and 266 respectively. When taking his rushing yards into consideration, Beaudry gains 284.5 total yards per game, also third in the Big Sky.

The Thunderbirds’ Justin Miller is one of the top statistical quarterbacks in the Big Sky Conference, with 10 TDs to one INT, and a completion percentage of 72 percent. Miller leads the Big Sky in pass efficiency with a rating of 167.5. He has led the Thunderbird offense to a positive point differential, despite their 1-2 record.

Idaho’s Key Players/Statistics:
Hayden Hatten and Cutrell Haywood have separated themselves as the top receivers for the Vandal offense, combining for over half of the passing output, with 26 receptions, 321 yards, and two TDs between them. As a whole, the Vandal offense is one of three teams in the nation to score a touchdown every time they enter the red zone.

Tre Walker leads the Big Sky in tackles per game with 17, and is second in the Big Sky in overall tackles despite playing just two games. At times, Walker has stepped in at running back for the Vandals, forcing backup QB CJ Jordan to change numbers from 8 to 4 to allow for both players to be on the field at the same time, if the situation occurs. Christian Elliss is tied for second in tackles per game across the Big Sky with 10.5.

The Vandal special teams units continue to shine as their 30 yards per kickoff return ranks fourth in the entire country. Cade Coffey and Logan Prescott have punted Idaho to the top of the nation in net punting with a 45 yard average, more than a full yard better than the next closest team.

Southern Utah’s Key Players/Statistics:
Offensively, the Thunderbirds lead the league in time of possession. They are led by a well-balanced passing attack headed up by Brandon Schenks. Schenks has just nine receptions across three games, but has caught five touchdowns for the Thunderbirds, including a 73-yarder in their last outing. Receivers Landen Measom and Lance Lawson, as well as tight end Tanner McLachlan, all have double-digit receptions and triple-digit yardage on the season.

At running back, the Thunderbirds use a committee of Dayne Christiansen, Jay Green Jr., and Thomas Duckett, with all three having 15 carries or more. Star linebacker La’akea Kaho’ohanohano-Davis also has 17 carries for the SUU rushing attack.

The Thunderbirds lead the league in rushing defense, allowing just 93 rushing yards per game. They also lead the league in sacks. Kaho’ohanohano-Davis leads the Big Sky with five sacks and two forced fumbles, on top of leading the league in solo tackles with 21. Defensive lineman Francis Bemiy is second in the Big Sky with three sacks. Cornerback Alonzo Davis is third in the conference with three passes broken up.

Key to the Game:
Idaho’s offensive line has to limit Kaho’ohanohano-Davis and the rest of the SUU pass rush and keep Beaudry upright to allow the Idaho offense to keep pace with Southern Utah’s.

Game Predictions:
Producer Dallas: This is a stylistic nightmare for the Vandals. We’ve long said that the question marks for this season would be the offensive line and the secondary. The Thunderbirds lead the league in sacks and have a passing game that is firing on all cylinders. However, the Vandal defense limits Miller just enough, as Idaho wins 28-27.
Chris: 20-9 Idaho
Brian: 27-24 Idaho
Alex: 31-21 Idaho

Predictions Standings:
Producer Dallas: 2-0
Chris, Alex, Sean: 1-1
Brian: 0-2

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