Big Damm Preview: Game 2 – Idaho vs. Indiana

Fresh off starting the season with a 68-0 beatdown of Simon Fraser, Idaho hits the road to Big Ten country for a showdown with the Indiana Hoosiers. This will be the first time in history that Idaho and Indiana match up.

Last Game:
Idaho shredded Simon Fraser as six different players each registered more than 20 rushing yards on the way to 316 total yards on the ground.

The preseason #17 Hoosiers got drubbed on the road by a different black and gold team as Iowa went wire-to-wire in a 34-6 victory.

Quarterbacks:
Zach Borisch got the start for the Vandals against Simon Fraser, but never threw the ball [editor’s note: #LetBorischThrow] as Idaho alternated between CJ Jordan and Mike Beaudry as the primary quarterback for each quarter, with Borisch relegated to spot duty running the read option.
Jordan, playing the first and third quarters, went 7 for 12 with 161 yards and two TDs, adding another 61 yards and a TD on the ground. Beaudry went 10 for 15 with 116 yards, plus 47 yards rushing. Borisch had 8 rushes for 34 yards, one of which was a botched snap over his head that he recovered for negative 14 yards (if you remove this bad snap broken play, he went 7 rushes for 48 yards.)
Idaho is expected to play all three quarterbacks this week against the Hoosiers.

Indiana returns redshirt junior Michael Penix Jr. [editor’s note: our nonexistent lawyers have informed us that we must stress the pronunciation is pen-icks.] While turning in an all-conference stat line in 2020, at one point leading the Big Ten in passing yards, yards per game, touchdowns, completions, and attempts; Penix suffered an ACL injury to end his season early. Despite the injury, Penix was given Big Ten preseason honors for 2021, and is on the watchlist for the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Walter Camp, Manning, and Unitas awards. Against Iowa last week, his first game since the injury, he went 14 for 31, 156 yards, and three INTs.

Idaho’s Key Players/Statistics:
The Vandal offense distributed the ball all over the field last week, as 13 players registered a rush or reception. Roshaun Johnson paced the backs with 10 rushes for 87 yards, and one catch for 17 yards. Hayden Hatten led the receivers with 106 yards and a TD off of two catches, while Michael Noil had four receptions for 68 yards. Newcomers Elisha Cummings (six carries for 56 yards), Terez Traynor (three catches for 25 yards), and Mekhi Stevenson (two catches for 22 yards, plus four punt returns for 61 yards) passed the eye test with limited offensive stats and look to be key contributors moving forward.

Defensively, Idaho held Simon Fraser to just 90 yards, and had 27 players register a defensive statistic, led by Noah Elliss’s eight tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss. Hogan Hatten, Malakai Williams, Rahsaan Crawford, Coleman Johnson, and tight end turned linebacker Logan Kendall all registered a sack. Sean McCormick had the Vandals’ only turnover, with a 32 yard interception return.

Indiana’s Key Players/Statistics:
Indiana finished 12th in the AP poll last season, their highest finish in over 50 years, and came into 2021 with their first preseason ranking since 1969. Head coach Tom Allen was named the AFCA Coach of the Year last season.

Offensively, Penix carries the bulk of the accolades for the Hoosier offense, but receiver Ty Fryfogle was an All-American last season, and is on the watchlist for the Maxwell and Biletnikoff Awards this year. Tight end Peyton Hendershot is on the watchlist for the John Mackey Award, offensive lineman Matthew Bedford is on the Outland Trophy watchlist, and running back Stephen Carr is on the Doak Walker Award watchlist. Carr received the bulk of the work on the ground last week against Iowa, with 19 carries for 57 yards. Fryfogle and Hendershot had over half of the receiving output, with eight catches and 110 yards between them. Lou Groza Award watchlist kicker Charles Campbell scored all six points for the Indiana offense last week.

Linebacker Micah McFadden and cornerback Tiawan Mullen also received All-American honors last season, and both players are on the watchlist for the Bednarik and Nagurski Trophies. McFadden is also on the Butkus Award watchlist, while Mullen is on the Jim Thorpe Award watchlist.

Key to the Game:
Avoid injury. Get more clarity on the QB competition. Get out alive.

Game Predictions:
Producer Dallas: Well, last week I was not prepared for Simon Fraser to be as bad as they were. Hand up, I got last week’s prediction wrong. This week, I’m more confident. Indiana is too big, too deep, and too talented for Idaho to pull off the Big Sky over FBS upset that was in vogue last week and I don’t see Idaho containing the Hoosier offense like Iowa did. Indiana wins 45-13.
Boatman: Indiana 52-21 (with the back door cover by Idaho at the end)
Brian: Indiana 45-17
Chris: Indiana 35-18

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.

Quarterbacks:
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

Big Damm Preview: Game 6 – Idaho vs. Northern Arizona 4/17/21

The final week of the spring season is upon us, and Idaho looks to finish with a .500 record by beating Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.

Last Game:
Idaho lost to Eastern Washington 38-31, after unveiling a new triple-option offense. Idaho led after three quarters but was unable to seal the deal, as EWU’s Dennis Merritt ran in two TDs in the fourth quarter.

Northern Arizona picked up their second win of the season in a 28-20 victory over Southern Utah.

Previous Matchup:
November 23rd, 2019 – Mason Petrino had a career day with 498 yards and 6 passing TDs in a 60-53 overtime victory that stands as Paul Petrino’s only road win since the Vandals rejoined the Big Sky Conference. Jeff Cotton had 18 receptions for 230 yards and two TDs.

Quarterbacks:
Honestly, who even knows at this point. Idaho has trotted out three different starters and four quarterbacks overall. Last week, safety-turned-running back-turned-quarterback Zach Borisch turned in one of the most impressive rushing games from any Vandal across history, averaging 6.2 yards per carry for 205 yards and two TDs. Through the air, Borisch went 5 for 11 with 74 yards, a TD, and 2 INTs. Will we see Borisch leading the triple-option this week? Will we see the typical passing attack Idaho is known for, but with Borisch? Will Beaudry be out of concussion protocol and start instead? Will we see both QBs? Could Tre Walker play QB?

Northern Arizona will almost certainly be playing two quarterbacks this week, as they’ve dedicated at least one series per game to redshirt freshman backup Jeff Widener, who is 21 of 33 for 182 yards and two INTs. Keondre Wudtee will see the bulk of the snaps under center for the Lumberjacks, and is 67 of 114 on the season, with 830 yards, 3 TDs, and an INT. The two QBs have four rushing TDs between them.

Editor’s note: all conference-based statistics have been adjusted to remove Montana’s laughable spring game from counting. Montana, no one cares, no matter how many feel good points you scored or how warm and fuzzy you feel from your scrimmage.

Idaho’s Key Player’s/Statistics:
The first article where we aren’t going to mention how great of a game star receiver Hayden Hatten had, as the triple option attack limited him to just one reception for 16 yards. Hatten is now second in the Big Sky in receptions per game (7.2) and third in yards per game (95.6).

On the ground, Zach Borisch’s 205 yards and 2 TDs made (in this writer’s opinion) an incredible case to see more touches moving forward, regardless of his position in the future. Nick Romano leads the Big Sky in kick return average (27.1 yards per attempt) and is third in all-purpose yards per game (116.0).

Tre Walker, Christian Elliss, and Fa’Avae Fa’Avae are all among the top ten in the Big Sky Conference in tackles per game. Walker’s 13.5 lead the conference, followed by Elliss’s 10.0 in third, and Fa’Avae’s 8.2 in eighth.

Cade Coffey is second in the Big Sky in punting average (47.0 yards per punt) and second in kicker scoring with 7.5 points per game.

Northern Arizona’s Key Player’s/Statistics:
The Lumberjacks are not particularly outstanding in either phase of the game, ranking fifth in total offense, sixth in total defense, seventh in scoring offense, and sixth in scoring defense. However, they are first in the Big Sky with a +5 turnover margin, and along with the Vandals, are one of two teams to not lose a fumble this season.

Wudtee and Widener will be throwing to a deep stable of pass-catchers, with four receivers averaging more than three catches per game. Stacy Chukwumezie’s fourteen receptions for 233 yards and a TD pace the group.

On the ground, the Lumberjacks are led by the tandem of Draycen Hall and George Robinson, each averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Hall leads the tandem with 217 yards and a TD on the season, but Robinson received the bulk of the work last week, with 18 carries for 102 yards and a TD.

Defensive back Morgan Vest’s 9.8 tackles per game are good for fifth in the Big Sky, while defensive lineman Carson Taylor is tied for eighteenth (6.0). Carson’s two sacks in four games pace the Lumberjacks.

Punter DJ Arnson is third in the Big Sky Conference with an average of 42.4 yards per punt.

Key to the Game:
Will the Idaho offense convert on enough third-downs to get the win? Idaho is sixth in the conference in third-down conversion percentage (39.2) and needs to sustain more drives in order to finish .500 on the season.

Game Predictions:
Producer Dallas: This feels like the “classic Idaho let down game”, after a gutty performance that fell just short against a top ten team. Is the triple-option here to stay, and if it is, is it as effective once the shock value is gone? Paul Petrino has won just a single road game in the last three seasons, and until that changes, I can’t predict a Vandal win away from home. NAU gets it done, 31-17.
Chris: NAU 31-30 (Correction: Idaho wins if Beaudry plays, loses if Borisch plays.)
Brian: Idaho 27-21 (Correction: Idaho wins if Borisch is the QB in the option, loses if Beaudry plays and runs the standard offense.)
Alex: NAU 31-20

Predictions Standings:
Producer Dallas: 4-1
Chris: 3-2
Alex: 3-2
Brian: 2-3

Big Damm Preview: Game 5 – Idaho vs. #9 Eastern Washington 4/10/21

Round two of the Red Scare Rivalry is upon us! Eastern Washington comes into their final regular season game with four straight wins since falling to Idaho in week one. Idaho sits at 2-2 after a loss to Idaho State in the ICCU Battle of the Domes (King Spud!)

Last Game: Idaho’s late comeback fell short (turnover on downs with 1:50 remaining)in a 24-22 loss at Idaho State.

Eastern Washington led from start to finish in their 32-22 win at UC Davis.

Previous Matchup:
Idaho bested the then 12th-ranked Eastern Washington Eagles 28-21 in week one. Hayden Hatten caught a 25-yard TD pass from Mike Beaudry with under a minute to go. Eastern Washington was without head coach Aaron Best due to COVID-19 protocols.

Quarterbacks:
All signs point to Nikhil Nayar making his first career start for Idaho after Mike Beaudry left last week’s game with a concussion (CJ Jordan did not make an appearance.) Nayar, fresh off of his relief appearance against Southern Utah, did not post the numbers he did the week before, going 11 of 34 for 130 yards, with one passing TD, one rushing TD, and one INT. On the season, Nayar is 23 of 54, with three TDs and one INT.

EWU’s star QB Eric Barriere continues to perform at a Walter Payton Award level, completing 64.3% of his passes for 1879 yards to go with 16 TDs and six INTs. He is the reigning ROOT Sports Offensive Player of the Week, his third selection this season.

Idaho’s Key Players/Statistics:
It’s getting hard finding new ways to write about Hayden Hatten each week. The wideout had nine catches for 95 yards and a TD against Idaho State. On the season, Hatten still leads the conference in receptions per game (8.8) and is third in yards per game (115.5).

Idaho’s committee of running backs put up over 100 yards of rushing against Idaho State, led by Roshaun Johnson’s 14 carries for 53 yards.

Defensively, Jonah Kim led the way with two sacks last week, as the front seven continues to be Idaho’s strength, particularly the quartet of All-Big Sky caliber linebackers. Tre Walker returned from injury to tally 13 tackles and a sack. Walker, now having played enough games to qualify, leads the Big Sky in tackles per game with 15.7. Christian Elliss added 11 tackles and now averages 9.2 per game, good for sixth in the Big Sky. Not to be outdone, Fa’Avae Fa’Avae is seventh in the conference with nine tackles per game. Charles Akanno is ninth in the Big Sky in tackles for loss.

Eastern Washington’s Key Players/Statistics:
The 9th-ranked Eastern Washington Eagles lead the Big Sky in points per game with 41.2, led primarily by three receivers among the statistical leaders in the conference. Talolo Limu-Jones, who went nine for 93 yards in his first outing against Idaho, is second in the Big Sky in both receptions per game (8.0) and yards per game (116.0). Freddie Roberson is fourth in both per game metrics (5.6 catches, 83.4 yards), while Andrew Boston is eighth in receptions per game (4.8) and fifth in yards per game (72.5). Running back Tamarack Pierce averages 5.9 yards per carry and is third in the Big Sky with 73.2 rushing yards per game.

Former Vandal Ty Graham leads the Eastern Washington defense with 8.2 tackles per game. Joshua Jerome’s three sacks are good for fourth in the Big Sky. While Chris Ojoh has made waves for opting into the transfer portal in the middle of the season, key returners Jack Sendelbach and Calin Criner (son of former Vandal defensive coordinator Mark) saw their first action of the season against UC Davis and are expected to start.

Key to the Game:
Can the Idaho front seven contain Barriere’s scrambles and limit the damage Eastern will do offensively?

Game Predictions:
Producer Dallas: Eastern Washington has won sixteen straight games at Roos Field, by an average score of 52-23 (props to Dave Cook, the EWU Assistant Athletic Director for Communications, for this statistic.) They average over 40 points a game and are second in the nation in passing yards per game (402.2). In their last game of the season, they are going to be looking to make an impression on the committee to get one of the five at-large bids for the FCS playoffs, and feasting on the Idaho secondary is their way to do that. I just don’t see Idaho having the horsepower on offense, or the coverage in the secondary, to keep this close. EWU wins, 52-21.
Chris: Idaho 28-27
Brian: EWU 35-21
Alex: EWU 31-21

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

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.

Quarterbacks:
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