Big Damm Preview: Game 1 – Simon Fraser vs. Idaho

Less than five months since we last saw the Vandal football team, we’re back with a full fall season! Unlike the spring season which saw Idaho ranked at times, the Vandals come into the fall with considerably lower expectations, not receiving a single vote in any national poll. Idaho was picked to finish eighth in the conference by both the Big Sky Coaches and Media polls. The Vandals kick off their season with a tune-up home game against the hated rivals from Canada, Simon Fraser University.

Previous Matchup:
Idaho has hosted Simon Fraser twice, in 1980 and 1981, the final two seasons of Jerry Davitch’s time as the Vandal head coach. Idaho won 56-16 and 52-7 respectively.

Idaho expects to showcase three different quarterbacks this game, with the plan of naming a starter when Big Sky Conference play begins. Expect Mike Beaudry, CJ Jordan, and Zach Borisch to all see reps this weekend, as all three quarterbacks are listed with an “OR” designation on the two (or three) deep. Listed first on the depth chart is Beaudry, who played in four games during the spring season and went 73 for 123 (59%) with three TDs and three INTs. Jordan is listed next, who went 16 for 27 (59%) in his single appearance. Borisch was a bit of a revelation last spring, starting the year off listed as a special teams running back before starting at quarterback in the second to last game of the season. Borisch went just 6 for 12 with one TD and two INTs, but led the Vandals in rushing yards with 283 in just two appearances.

Simon Fraser has two quarterbacks from the state of Washington competing for the starting job, in sophomores Justin Seiber and Brandon Niksich. Seiber went 105 for 185 (57%) with 1116 yards, 7 TDs and 7 INTs in 2018; but was injured in the first game of the 2019 season. Niksich took over from there and went 150 for 281 (53%) with 1926 yards, 10 TDs and 10 INTs.

Idaho’s Key Players:
The Vandals return the bulk of the squad from the spring season, including Tre Walker and his countless preseason accolades (including, but not limited to, Big Sky Defensive MVP, Buck Buchanan Award Watch List, Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List, and numerous All-American teams.)

Offensively, the three quarterbacks will have Hayden Hatten and Cutrell Haywood back as the primary pass catchers, as well as new transfers Terez Traynor and Mekhi Stevenson. Traynor is listed as a starter opposite Hatten, with Stevenson listed behind Traynor. Freshman Elisha Cummings breaks into the two-deep at running back behind returning starter Roshaun Johnson, while 2019’s leading Vandal rusher Aundre Carter returns to the team.

On the other side of the ball, Walker leads a loaded front seven filled with studs and depth, even with the departure of Christian Elliss for his NFL dreams. Sophomore Sully Shannon will get the first crack at replacing Elliss. Charles Akanno and Rahsaan Crawford will start in the front seven as the final remaining Vandals from the 2016 bowl-winning team.

Friend of the pod Cade Coffey has finished his career as an all-time great Vandal special-teamer, and will be replaced as punter by Caleb Lightbourn, while Logan Prescott returns as the kicker after handling kickoffs and occasional spot duty in relief of Coffey last season. Nick Romano will once again be receiving kickoffs, while Stevenson is designated as the punt returner.

Key to the Game:
The Vandals must come out firing on all cylinders and build a large lead very quickly. This will be Simon Fraser’s first game since a 51-14 loss to Central Washington on November 16th, 2019. SFU has only won two games since 2015. Idaho must put them away early and get the opportunity to play the vast majority of the roster before looking ahead to the “body bag” games on the road at Indiana and Oregon State.

Game Predictions:
Producer Dallas: Idaho does not blow away an inferior opponent as the offense looks rusty and disjointed, while never finding a rhythm in the midst of playing three quarterbacks. The Vandals win is never in any danger, and a lot of young guys get reps, but fans are left to wonder how this game wasn’t a blowout. Idaho wins 31-17.
Boatman: 48-14
Brian: 45-14
Chris: 80-10

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