Big Damm Preview: Game 4 – Idaho vs. #8 UC Davis

Fresh off a narrow victory on the bye week, the Vandals head to California to face former BSU head coach Dan Hawkins and his undefeated UC Davis Aggies, who claim a rare FCS-over-FBS victory after beating Tulsa in the opening week of the season.

Last Game:
Two weeks ago, Idaho was shut out by Oregon State 42-0 on a rainy day in Corvallis.

Last week, UC Davis took down the then-14th ranked Weber State Wildcats 17-14 in Ogden.

Last Meeting:
In the spring season, Idaho jumped out to a 10-0 lead before UC Davis scored the final three touchdowns of the game on their way to a 27-17 victory inside the Kibbie Dome.

Quarterbacks:
WHO IS IT GOING TO BE? Idaho head coach Paul Petrino has decided on a starter, but will not be announcing the starter until the first offensive series this weekend. CJ Jordan got the bulk of the reps against Oregon State, going 7 for 16 with 37 yards and two INTs. Jordan also rushed for a net gain of 55 yards. Mike Beaudry went 6 for 9 with 47 yards in the few series he received. Zach Borisch (#LetBorischThrow) did not register a pass or rush attempt. Have any of the QBs done enough to claim the job outright? For a further breakdown on the quarterback situation, check out Chris Hammond’s statistical breakdown here:

As for the Aggies, they’re in a different type of quarterback quandary. Established QB1 Hunter Rodrigues has played quite well so far, posting a stat line of 72 for 117 (61.5%) with six TDs and just one INT. Rodrigues is also their second leading rusher, with 124 net yards and two TDs on the ground. However, Rodrigues was hurt in the fourth quarter of the win over Weber State and redshirt freshman Miles Hastings stepped in. Hastings went 7 for 9 with 50 yards, and converted both a third down and a fourth down while leading the Aggies to the two yard line. From there, reserve QB/Wildcat Trent Tompkins came in and punched in the TD to finish off the last-minute comeback.
Will Rodrigues be healthy enough to play this week? If Rodrigues is ailing, did Hastings show enough to play until Rodrigues is back to 100%? Will the Aggies trot out Tompkins and run a wildcat/option offense? Much like Idaho’s situation, UC Davis isn’t expected to announce their plans until the game is underway.

Idaho’s Key Players/Statistics:
Coming into conference play, Hayden Hatten leads the team in receiving even after missing the Oregon State game, with 12 receptions for 200 yards and 3 TDs. Terez Traynor (10 catches, 99 yards) and Michael Noil (8 catches, 98 yards) are the only other receivers with more than five receptions. On the ground, CJ Jordan’s 121 net yards and one TD paces the team, while Roshaun Johnson and Elisha Cummings lead the running backs with 91 yards/three TDs and 84 yards/one TD respectively.

Defensively, Tre Walker and Fa’Avae Fa’Avae lead the team with 24 and 22 tackles. Charles Akanno has recovered from his Achilles injury, leading the team with four tackles for loss, and is one of seven Vandals with a sack. Idaho has not forced a fumble this season, but Tyrese Dedmon and Sean McCormick each have an interception.

Caleb Lightbourn is off to a great start replacing friend of Tubs (and Idaho legend) Cade Coffey, averaging 48.3 yards per punt.

UC Davis’s Key Players/Statistics:
The Aggie offense runs through former All-Big Sky Conference running back Ulonzo Gilliam Jr., who has rushed for 361 net yards and four TDs on the year, while also receiving 69 yards [editor’s note: nice] and a TD. Former All-Big Sky Conference receiver Jared Harrell leads the receiving core with 19 receptions for 289 yards and two TDs, while 2021 Spring All-Big Sky Conference first-team tight end McCallen Castles has 10 receptions for 160 yards and three TDs. 2021 Preseason All-Big Sky Conference center Connor Pettek anchors the offensive line.

2021 Preseason All-Big Sky Conference defensive back Jordan Perryman leads a secondary filled with ball-hawks, as the Aggies have 16 pass breakups and 10 interceptions in four games. Bryce Rodgers (who has too many All-Big Sky commendations to comfortably list here) leads the front seven with 2.5 sacks, four QB hurries, and a fumble recovery.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be Tubs at The Club without mentioning Daniel Whelan, the Aggie punter who edged out Coffey for first-team All-Big Sky honors last season and received most major preseason FCS accolades this year.

Key to the Game:
It would be easy to say Idaho’s starting QB has to play well, so we’ll go a different direction. Regardless of who UC Davis trots out at QB, can the Idaho secondary make strides from the matchup in the spring? Rodrigues completed almost 80% of his throws in the Kibbie Dome, and that number will have to be considerably lower this time around for the Vandals to have a chance.

Game Predictions:
Producer Dallas: UC Davis just got through the toughest part of their schedule, winning on the road against an FBS school that went bowling last season, as well as knocking off four-time defending Big Sky Conference champions Weber State in Ogden. This is one of the most talented teams in the nation, led by a head coach I’ll begrudgingly admit is very good when he’s not starting his son at QB. No matter who takes snaps for Idaho, I just don’t see Idaho scoring enough to keep up. UC Davis wins, 27-14.
Boatman: UC Davis 34-24
Brian: UC Davis 38-17
Chris: UC Davis 30-20

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