Big Damm Preview: Game 4 – #24 Idaho vs. Idaho State 3/30/21

The ICCU Battle of the Domes for the lost King Spud trophy is here! The Idaho Vandals travel down to Pocatello to take on the in-state rival Idaho State Bengals in Holt Arena. This will be Idaho’s first of three straight road contests.

Last Game:
Idaho slipped past Southern Utah 33-32 after third-string QB Nikhil Nayar’s touchdown pass to Cutrell Haywood with seven seconds left in the game.

Idaho State lost to UC Davis 31-27 after giving up a four yard touchdown run with eight seconds to go.

Previous Matchup:
October 19th, 2019 – Idaho beat Idaho State 45-21 during homecoming weekend. Lloyd Hightower had two of Idaho’s three defensive touchdowns, while Colton Richardson threw for two touchdowns and ran in another.

Head coach Paul Petrino joked earlier this week that he might play all three of the Vandals primary quarterbacks. Incumbent starter Mike Beaudry did not play last week, and touted true freshman CJ Jordan made his first start for the Vandals. Jordan went 16 for 27 and 183 yards, and ran for an additional 65 (counted as 38 after accounting for sack totals.) Jordan was injured at the end of the third quarter on a sack by La’akea Kaho’ohanohano-Davis, and Nikhil Nayar stepped in to finish the game. In just over a quarter of work, Nayar went 12 for 20 with 143 yards and two TDs, capping off the nine-point comeback with the aforementioned touchdown pass to Haywood.

Tyler Vander Waal will be under center for the Bengals, having started every game this season. Vander Waal averages 303 yards per game, good for second in the Big Sky Conference, with 10 TDs and six INTs. He is completing just under 56 percent of his throws, but is third in passing efficiency across the starters in the Big Sky. Vander Waal has taken 15 sacks in four games.

Idaho’s Key Players/Statistics:
Another game preview, another sentence of praise for Hayden Hatten. The tight end turned receiver is first in the Big Sky Conference with 8.7 receptions per game and 122.3 yards per game. Cutrell Haywood’s averages of 6 receptions and 59 yards per game are fourth and sixth in the conference respectively.

The three-headed rushing attack got a big boost from Dylan Thigpen’s 110 yards on just nine carries last week. Between Thigpen, Nick Romano, Roshaun Johnson, and the QB runs/scrambles from CJ Jordan, the Vandals gained 245 yards on the ground and pushed their per-game average over 100 yards.

Defensively, Fa’Avae Fa’Avae was named ROOT Sports Big Sky Conference Player of the Week with 18 total tackles last weekend. Fa’Avae is now second in the Big Sky in tackles per game with 11, and Christian Ellis ranks seventh with nine per game. To be eligible for statistical rankings, a player must play in 75 percent of possible games, meaning that Tre Walker’s 34 tackles in two games do not place him atop the Big Sky rankings. Walker is expected to be back for this weekend’s matchup.

Idaho State’s Key Players/Statistics:
The Bengal offense has four different receivers with double-digit receptions, led by Big Sky Podcast Network Midseason Non-QB MVP Tanner Conner’s 400 yards and three touchdowns. Conner’s 100 yards per game average is third in the Big Sky Conference. Jalen Henderson and Xavier Guillory each have over 200 yards on the season.

Malakai Rango receives the bulk of the carries on the ground, and his 79 yards per game are good for third in the Big Sky. Overall, their ground game is fifth in the Big Sky Conference with 132 yards per game, but averages just 3.3 yards per carry.

By yards per game, the Bengal defense is sixth in the conference, allowing 460.7 yards per game. Linebacker Connor Willis is third in the Big Sky with 10.5 tackles per game. Raemo Trevino is the only Bengal with multiple sacks, as the team has just six in four games. On the whole, the Bengal defense has forced a fumble in every game this spring.

Vandal Football Twitter: Matt Struck Sacked Hard

Key to the Game:
Charles Akanno and the rest of the Vandal pass rush have to get Vander Waal on the turf early and often, in hopes that the secondary can contain Conner and the rest of the Bengal wideouts.

Game Predictions:
Producer Dallas: The last two games in this series have been blowouts that were decided early, with Idaho up 21 at halftime last year, and Idaho State up by 21 at halftime in 2018. The team that gets their second score first will be the team that wins this weekend. I’m picking Idaho to start fast and win 37-27.
Chris: ISU 30-28
Brian: Idaho 35-31
Alex: Idaho 35-24

Predictions Standings:
Producer Dallas: 3-0
Chris, Alex: 2-1
Brian: 1-2

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