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

Replacement Ideas For Week 1 & 3

What does this season hold for Idaho?

The news that the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) and PAC-12 are going to conference only schedule for fall 2020 means Vandal football has an open date week 1 and week 3. For now, Idaho expects to play in the fall and the Big Sky has not ruled itself into conference only schedules. The way the current schedules looks you would not know it. Idaho’s lone non-conference opponent is week 2 at Temple.  With a bye week in week 4 and conference play for us starting week 5 (October 3rd) at UC Davis. Even if you are lucky enough to be part of the planned 5100 in attendance, you will not see the team in Moscow until October 10th against Portland State for Homecoming. We would then play 3 of our next 4 games in Moscow. Before ending the season on a two game road trip.

Football as a whole is up in the air. Does not mean I cannot play mad scientist with our schedule again. I would like to try and just replace the games we are missing in week 1 and 3. Not completely redo the schedule, just plug and play type of solution.

Week 1 Options

Northern Arizona 

It is already going to be an unorthodox season. Why not start it out the same way? Have Northern Arizona (NAU) come to the Kibbie dome twice, week 1 (September 5th) and week 9 (October 31st). NAU originally scheduled to travel to Arizona State before the PAC-12 announced it was going conference only. They were already going on the road. If the Big Sky does not move or cancel football this fall, then Northern Arizona appears to be a school willing to play. The same cannot be said for the California Schools.

At Utah State

Utah State was also hung out to dry like us with Washington State and the PAC 12 decision to not play out of conference. We could renew an old Big West, Sunbelt and WAC rivalry with the ole blue Aggies from the state of Utah. This game was always one of the more fun games on our schedule in the late 90s through the early 2010s. Bring it back. This is type of FBS program we should be scheduling anyways. No better time than now to get them back on the schedule.

At Colorado State

The PAC 12 strikes again. This time in the form of the “Rocky Mountain Showdown”. With week 1 open and a bit of a fun history against Idaho 2009, 2010 and 2016 all being instant classics. This would not be the worst game to schedule. In fact quite the opposite.

At Montana

Instead of paying a school a small fee to come to us. Why not collect a little bit of money to go to Montana. Montana also lost their GNAC opponent week 1, creating an opening. Idaho leads the all-time series 55-29-2. I’m sure Montana wouldn’t mind a chance to knock the series total two closer in their favor in one season. While Idaho wouldn’t mind two chances at getting the Little Brown Stein back or extending the lead by two games.

North Dakota State

I mean it is open for both of us. They were already going to travel to Oregon. Why not host the Bison in Moscow? I mean, there is a ton of reasons. It still would be pretty cool and sure would make those 5100 seats more appealing.

Northern Iowa

Had some classics with these cats in the 90s. They no longer play Iowa, they could play Idaho?

Week 3 Options

At Utah State

Washington Huskies are out. Plug Idaho in. For all the same reasons mention in week 1 explanation. Assuming we didn’t schedule them week 1.

At Air Force

No longer traveling to Purdue. Maybe they would like to host Idaho? We have almost no recent history with this team. But may be fun to start some. Plus with our defense, this could be a game.

At Wyoming

The Utes are no longer on their way Laramie. I know I would like another shot at the Cowboys after last year. Where our upset slipped through our finger tips.

At North Dakota State

NC A&T is out of the picture in week 3 for NDSU. Even if Idaho plays them week 1, a little home and home would most likely benefit both schools. They both miss a PAC 12 payday. Both could save money by not having to pay another school to come. In terms of win, loss record not a strong idea for Idaho. In terms of turning this 2020 schedule into something and having a reliable opponent that has same likelihood of playing as you do, is somewhat unmeasurable in terms of importance this year. Better be quick, best believe James Madison has already made a call.

South Dakota State

Nebraska Out. The Big Ten is doing to the Missouri Valley what the PAC 12 did to the Mountain West and Big Sky. This would give us an opportunity to host week 3 if we went on the road in week 1. I imagine the money may not be there though. This option seems a tad unlikely.

At Portland State / Home vs Portland State

Oregon State is out. Play Idaho twice in 3 weeks? Once in Portland/Hillsboro week 3 and again in week 5 in Moscow. If Idaho is unable to get NDSU or NAU to come to the Kibbie Dome week 1, see if Portland State is willing to travel to Moscow twice. 

Conclusion

The way the season is going it is probably best to hold off on scheduling anyone new. As the college football landscape seems to change daily. More teams may fall off our schedule, more may become available or perhaps even we fall off other teams schedule. I just wanted to have some fun with it.

The right pairing would be important. Are we looking for a fun schedule, a winnable schedule, a fiscally conservative schedule or a mix? I know my dream schedule would be NDSU home and away. The best case schedule would be Week 1: Northern Iowa, Week 3 at Utah State. The safest to stay on the books would be Week 1: Northern Arizona, Week 3 at Portland State, which doubles as our most likely to make the FCS Playoffs if they happen.

Though none of these are likely, I hope this at least made a little bit of that preseason excitement take hold of you for a little bit.