Big Damm Preview: Game 3 – Southern Utah vs. Idaho 3/27/21

We’re back, just like we said we’d be back! The Idaho Vandals return to action this weekend to host the Southern Utah Thunderbirds in the third game of the 2021 spring season. This will be the third-straight (and final) home game of the season, a resulting quirk of postponing and rescheduling the Northern Arizona game to week 8 due to COVID-19 protocols.

Last Game:
Idaho has not played since March 6th, in a 27-12 loss to the currently 15th-ranked UC Davis Aggies.

Southern Utah picked up their first win of the season on March 13th, in a 34-24 victory over the Cal Poly Mustangs, in Beau Baldwin’s first game leading the Mustang program.

Previous Matchup:
October 20th, 2018 – Idaho beat Southern Utah 31-12 on homecoming weekend. Cutrell Haywood caught three touchdowns in a game Idaho never trailed.

Quarterbacks:
Idaho’s Mike Beaudry comes into this game with underwhelming statistical numbers, completing just under 60 percent of his passes, three TDs to three INTs, and is last in the Big Sky in pass efficiency rating with a rating of 119.0. However, Beaudry is second in completions per game and third in passing yards per game across the Big Sky, averaging 24.5 and 266 respectively. When taking his rushing yards into consideration, Beaudry gains 284.5 total yards per game, also third in the Big Sky.

The Thunderbirds’ Justin Miller is one of the top statistical quarterbacks in the Big Sky Conference, with 10 TDs to one INT, and a completion percentage of 72 percent. Miller leads the Big Sky in pass efficiency with a rating of 167.5. He has led the Thunderbird offense to a positive point differential, despite their 1-2 record.

Idaho’s Key Players/Statistics:
Hayden Hatten and Cutrell Haywood have separated themselves as the top receivers for the Vandal offense, combining for over half of the passing output, with 26 receptions, 321 yards, and two TDs between them. As a whole, the Vandal offense is one of three teams in the nation to score a touchdown every time they enter the red zone.

Tre Walker leads the Big Sky in tackles per game with 17, and is second in the Big Sky in overall tackles despite playing just two games. At times, Walker has stepped in at running back for the Vandals, forcing backup QB CJ Jordan to change numbers from 8 to 4 to allow for both players to be on the field at the same time, if the situation occurs. Christian Elliss is tied for second in tackles per game across the Big Sky with 10.5.

The Vandal special teams units continue to shine as their 30 yards per kickoff return ranks fourth in the entire country. Cade Coffey and Logan Prescott have punted Idaho to the top of the nation in net punting with a 45 yard average, more than a full yard better than the next closest team.

Southern Utah’s Key Players/Statistics:
Offensively, the Thunderbirds lead the league in time of possession. They are led by a well-balanced passing attack headed up by Brandon Schenks. Schenks has just nine receptions across three games, but has caught five touchdowns for the Thunderbirds, including a 73-yarder in their last outing. Receivers Landen Measom and Lance Lawson, as well as tight end Tanner McLachlan, all have double-digit receptions and triple-digit yardage on the season.

At running back, the Thunderbirds use a committee of Dayne Christiansen, Jay Green Jr., and Thomas Duckett, with all three having 15 carries or more. Star linebacker La’akea Kaho’ohanohano-Davis also has 17 carries for the SUU rushing attack.

The Thunderbirds lead the league in rushing defense, allowing just 93 rushing yards per game. They also lead the league in sacks. Kaho’ohanohano-Davis leads the Big Sky with five sacks and two forced fumbles, on top of leading the league in solo tackles with 21. Defensive lineman Francis Bemiy is second in the Big Sky with three sacks. Cornerback Alonzo Davis is third in the conference with three passes broken up.

Key to the Game:
Idaho’s offensive line has to limit Kaho’ohanohano-Davis and the rest of the SUU pass rush and keep Beaudry upright to allow the Idaho offense to keep pace with Southern Utah’s.

Game Predictions:
Producer Dallas: This is a stylistic nightmare for the Vandals. We’ve long said that the question marks for this season would be the offensive line and the secondary. The Thunderbirds lead the league in sacks and have a passing game that is firing on all cylinders. However, the Vandal defense limits Miller just enough, as Idaho wins 28-27.
Chris: 20-9 Idaho
Brian: 27-24 Idaho
Alex: 31-21 Idaho
Sean:

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

The Questions I Have About Spring Football 2021

This morning the Big Sky Conference announced it will be moving its 2020 football season to the spring, effectively putting one of the final nails in the FCS Playoffs coffin. With the Big Sky out, many people seem to think the Missouri Valley will be the next conference officially putting an end to the FCS playoffs. Meaning, there really isn’t a strong reason for schools to play each other … except for money.

Fans will have differing opinions as to whether this was the right call, but I don’t care either way anymore. I just have more questions than answers: Questions on the national, divisional and local level. If you have the answers I seek, please share them.

Nationally

The NFL Draft?

  • The NFL Draft is currently set for April 29th – May 1st. If FBS Power 5 play, you would imagine the NFL Draft is not moving. Are we going to have players sit out after a few good games in order to prep for the draft and not run the risk of injury? Think Trey Lance of North Dakota State who is a projected top 10 draft pick.

Transfers?

  • Not every players’ draft stock is as locked as Trey Lance’s if they choose to opt out. Do some opt in to playing at an FBS school this fall? This appears to be an option gaining popularity. An All-American James Madison standing announced he will be seeking to transfer to an FBS school per the Richmond Times-Dispatch because the FBS has a higher likelihood to play. Who else may fall in this category? Eric Barriere of Eastern Washington? Zerrick Cooper of Jacksonville State? Christian Elliss of Idaho?

The FCS

Frisco?

  • Anyone’s best guess would put the 2020* FCS Championship Game around the end of April to early June 2021, in which case Major League Soccer would presumably be back playing. FC Dallas is the home team and owner of Toyota Stadium, where the FCS Championship is held. While not insurmountable to schedule around, maybe FC Dallas does not want the damage that football causes done to their short grass field when they are in middle of their season. Is the game moved to a new location?

Scholarship Numbers?

  • It sounds like no one is losing eligibility. Seniors this fall will still be seniors this spring. How do schools know how many scholarships they have to use? Usually it is based off your projected graduating class. Some players may opt to just graduate in the winter of 2020. I would imagine the majority decide to return and play this spring. The FCS only allows 63 scholarships, so how are leagues and programs going to adjust this for spring?

Recruiting/Eligibility?

  • The early signing period is in December and National Letter of Intent day is early February. Both, you would assume, are before the spring 2021 season would kickoff. Are early high school graduates, transfers and JuCo signings going to be able to play this spring since they will already be on campus?

Money?

  • How are schools going to make up the loss of the bodybag game payouts?  Does the season moving impact TV contracts? These issues combined are millions of dollars left on table. Worrisome for athletic departments that tend to already run lean and rely heavily on these revenue sources just to meet budget.

Fall 2021?

  • Are we going to roll into the fall 2021 season with only 2-4 months off? If the Power 5 play, is this even safe? Most FCS schools’ first few games are against these type of schools. Is it safe for Mercer to be on about three months rest, start practice and then play Alabama to start their fall 2021 season?

Practice?

  • Are teams still able to practice all fall and winter? What are the restrictions going to look like, both with Covid-19 and competitive restrictions?

The Big Sky Conference

Conference Schedule?

  • Is the schedule going to be the same that it was for the fall 2020 season?

Backup Plan?

  • Thinking we will be in a much improved position come spring 2021 is a tad naive in my opinion. What is the plan if some schools cannot participate? How do you make the Covid protocol improvements athletes are looking for to be safe? How do we proactively put ourselves in a better spot than we are in today?

Idaho Vandals

Kibbie Dome?

  • Are we canceling indoor track and field in the spring? Are the basketball programs going to get booted to Mem Gym late in the season? How does football coexist in the multi-use facility that is transformed three different times throughout the year?

Building with the players?

Future Schedule?

Other Sports?

  • Are we able to afford winter and spring sports without football revenue from the fall? Do people need to donate the the Vandal Scholarship Fund (VSF)? If so, how much do we need to give to save our programs?

 

 

 

Could High Noon Big Sky & Pac 12 After Dark Help Idahos Deficit?

The University of Idaho is facing a bit of a budget crisis. In a rare feat of dumb luck, misfortune and geography, Idaho may be able to get creative in generating new revenue during the upcoming fall season in midst of the current pandemic.

The State of Idaho, for right or wrong, is moving along quicker than some neighboring states at reopening. With the recent announcement that students will be returning to campus in August, along with rumors the football team could report to campus as soon as early June, everything is pointing towards Idaho hosting sports come fall.

States like Oregon have said no sporting events until October. The California State University system has said it doesn’t expect students back in the fall.  It does not seem out of the realm of possibility that the state of Washington could say something similar and not allow sports within its state borders, seeing as the three states are apart of a joint COVID Coalition.

This puts our neighbors to the west in a particularly tough place. What if Washington State is not allowed to play sporting events in Martin Stadium come fall 2020? Is there a way to almost repay the “favor” they did for us back in late 90’s and early 2000’s?

Idaho at this point will have, we assume, already put into place proper precautions, procedures, and rules to be as safe a place as possible to host sports during the pandemic. All Washington State would have to do is bus the 8 miles to their new temporary home, play their home games in the Kibbie Dome, and then bus back. Idaho would obviously work out some sort of monetary deal for renting the Kibbie Dome. Whether it be a portion of ticket sales, concession, other game-day revenue, or just a flat fee depending on what the decided attendance structure even is (students only, season ticket holders only, completely empty?)

It also just so happens there is another school in a similar boat 77 miles away. It would be pretty cool having Coug, Eagle & Vandal doubleheaders in Moscow this fall.

 

Here is a hypothetical season in the Kibbie:

September 5th

  • Afternoon Kickoff: Idaho v Western Oregon

September 12th

  • Noon Kickoff: Eastern Washington v Western Illinois
  • Evening Kickoff: Washington State v Houston

September 19th (AKA Palousefest 2020)

  • Noon Kickoff: Eastern Washington v Northern Arizona
  • Evening Kickoff: Washington State v Idaho

October 3rd

  • Noon Kickoff: Eastern Washington v Montana
  • Evening Kickoff: Washington State v Cal

October 10th

  • Noon Kickoff: Idaho v Portland State
  • Evening Kickoff: Washington State v Utah

October 17th

  • Afternoon Kickoff: Eastern Washington v Idaho

October 24th

  • Afternoon Kickoff: Idaho v Montana

October 31st

  • Noon Kickoff: Idaho v Northern Arizona
  • Evening Kickoff: Washington State v Arizona State

November 7th

  • Noon Kickoff: Eastern Washington v Montana State
  • Evening Kickoff: Idaho v Southern Utah

November 21st

  • Evening Kickoff: Washington State v Oregon

November 27th

  • Afternoon Kickoff: Washington State v Washington

 

Big Sky at noon, followed up by ‘Pac-12 After Dark.’ That would be something else. Not to mention the added foot traffic coming to town to help those businesses that just penny-pinched to keep the lights on.

I understand that there are other logistics and more important health concerns that would need to be worked out to make this even remotely possible. We also aren’t even sure what the 2020 schedule will evolve into, as news is changing by the moment. It is an interesting scenario and alternative that the FBS & FCS programs in Palouse could look at. This is the outside-the-box thinking Idaho needs to be doing to conquer our financial woes. This call should at least be placed to the respective athletic directors on interest, if possible.

One last thought on this hypothetical,  Just imagine the Kibbie Dome parking lot on September 19th or even October 3rd…Heaven won’t be the only place without beer!

Fixing Idahos Future Schedule

The Big Sky Conference did fans and schools a huge favor last year by releasing the future conference schedules through 2023. Benefiting the schools, by now knowing exactly what dates they have open to schedule out of conference opponents.

For Idaho fans, this is a bit of a downer. You will notice there are not many out of conference games that catch the eye. Even less will be beneficial towards a playoff appearance. I will grade each current schedule, then provide my realistic fixes to each season.

2020 Schedule

Schedule-2020Since the 2020 season kickoff, is in only 7 months, the schedule is set in stone. week 1 Idaho opens the season against a division 2 side in Western Oregon. The week 2 Temple game is a return trip from the 2013 independent season when Idaho hosted the owls and went on to win the game 26-24. The Vandals wrap up in Week 3 with the Battle for the Palouse. This game is a replacement game for the canceled 4 game series made with San Jose State. Who pulled out because of Idaho’s move to the FCS.

Current Grade: C+

Idaho did the best with what they had on short notice. Getting Washington State to pay $550,000 to drive eight miles is an A+. However not getting out of a temple game from 2013 is a C-. Then the Western Oregon game is a D. The conference schedule paired with the Washington State game, the Vandals will leave the Palouse once in eight weeks. During the season Idaho only travels to Philadelphia, Davis California, Pullman Washington, Cheney Washington, Bozeman Montana, Pocatello Idaho. That’s likely only 2 flights. Far removed from the Sun Belt days.

How To Fix it:

Too little too late. But the division 2 game against Western Oregon is a drag to see. At least it only costs Idaho $80,000. Meaning the out of conference schedule will net Idaho $470,000. That helps the budget.

2021 Schedule

In 2021 Idaho opens at home vs Canadian side Simon Fraser. Back-to-back years with week 1 division 2 or lower team to start the season.Then pack their bags for week 2 body bag game against Big Ten program Indiana (will see them again). Closing out the non-conference schedule with another power five game in Corvallis against Oregon State.

Current Grade: C

Any division 2 or lower game from this year forward is to be met with a grade of an F. Idaho needs division 1 wins to qualify for the playoffs. In a conference as tough as the Big Sky. Indiana is an interesting power five game. It isn’t local, but it isn’t bad. Indiana isn’t exactly a world beater, this could be winnable power five program for Idaho. The Hoosers did go 9-0 against the FCS last decade. Indiana is paying Idaho 1.2 Million to go to Bloomington with a outside chance to win. That’s an A- grade for scheduling. To close out the out of conference schedule, Idaho gets to play the Beavers. Arguably, the worst Pac 12 program in the previous decade. A winnable, local power five game, that will pat the coffers with an additional $675,0000. This will get an A+.

Unlike 2020, the Big Sky did Idaho no favors in conference. Idaho will have a bye week in week 4. The Vandals will then have four weeks before they are back in the friendly confines of the Kibbie Dome. Followed by more road games. When week 9 rolls around it will only be the third home game of the year and only second vs division 1 competition.

The budget will be helped by netting 1.875 million before paying Simon Fraser $80,000.

How To Fix It:

Schedule-2021Nothing needs to be done with Oregon State & Indiana. The payouts and winablility of these games are perfect. Even if the Indiana game is an odd match-up. The real trick here is copying what the Vandals pulled off in 2019, with scheduling Eastern Washington out of conference. Due to the Big Sky having protected rivals every three years Idaho will not play Idaho State in the “Battle Of The Domes”. Tubs at The Club has been very vocal on this Issue that Idaho & Idaho State needs to become a rivalry game.

Putting this game week 1 would be a good move. Idaho can do better. The FCS has a weekend all to itself called “Week 0”. The highlight that weekend is the Guardian FCS Kickoff game. Instead of Austin Peay vs Central Arkansas (2020) or Samford v Youngstown State (2019). What if the game featured two In-state rivals? In 2020 the game is to be played in Pocatello & in 2022 it is to be played in Moscow. Creating a conundrum for a 2021 match-up.

Two solutions

First is the winner of the overall battle of the domes in 2020 gets to host the game and repeat this every three years when game is off the schedule. Split the revenue 50/50 after reimbursing travel to road team and operating cost of the host team.

The other options is a bit more controversial. Play it in Boise. Its 235 Miles from Pocatello & 295 Miles from Moscow. Boise is both schools largest alumni base. There is bound to be the “No way we are stepping on that blue field to give Boise State the satisfaction” agruement. I have previously mentioned this will be almost an insult to them if both Schools can sell out Bronco Stadium. Something they have seldom done recently. A nuetral stadium is on the way if the City of Boise can ever get out of their own way in building a beautiful new stadium. This is only going to be an issue every three years.

Get this game on ESPN for Week 0 and showcase The State, The Conference & The FCS level of football.

2022 Schedule

Kicking the Season off with a rivalry game in Pullman. For more money than they paid us in 2020. Then the Vandals return to Bloomington Indiana for the second time in as many years. This time collecting 1.3 Million Dollars. Then Idaho plays its first lower tier FCS program in the newly released schedules, Drake. In 2022 Idaho will play all Division 1 opponents for the first time since 2017.

It is a well spaced out schedule for home games, road games and a mid-season bye week.

Current Grade: B+

Schedule-20222022 currently is the year Idaho gets paid more, to do the same. A+

Anytime Idaho can get Washington State on the schedule every couple of years it is a positive. This is the type of Power five game Idaho should be scheduling. Ideally in a decade Idaho will play Washington State 3-4 times. The Likes of a Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Colorado, Utah each once. Then a bigger game like Texas A&M, Penn State, LSU or Florida State once just to have the experience.

Indiana is paying Idaho $100,000 more to come play them again in 2022 then they did in 2021. Most would assume this game to be favorable in 2022. More so with a previous appearance in Bloomington just 12 months prior. Grade this game an A.

The Big Skys whacky scheduling means no Montana State this season. That earns a D. Not the Athletic Departments fault, but it is what it is.

How To Fix It:

Drake is what drags this schedule down to a B+. Idaho should be scheduling low tier FCS teams to help with playoff qualification. Problem with the Drake game, Idaho is paying Drake $250,000 to come play in the Kibbie Dome. Taking a large bite out of the Washington State & Indiana earnings. Idaho should try and schedule these types of games as home & homes. Keeping the profit made from bodybag games.

The other change. Find a way to make the games marketable. The fanbase will be as fired up for the Drake game as they were for Western New Mexico State in 2018. Joining the Big Sky-Missouri Valley Challenge would be fun for the fanbase. Might even help with some of the steadfast FBSers. What better school to participate against in Idahos first go at the challenge than the Bobby Petrino led Missouri State Bears? Idaho is in need of a home game to complete the schedule. Putting the first meeting in the Kibbie Dome. The place where Bobby Petrino spent three seasons as QB coach and Offensive Coordinator from 89-91. Before Paul Petrino came to coach WR,QB & RBs from 92-94. Later taking the role as Head Ball Coach in 2013. They have never coached against each other and this would put people in the seats & eyes on the TV.

If Missouri State is not open to the idea. Montana State has week 3 open.

2023 Schedule

Schedule-2023The first year where the Vandals have a true opening where they can pick anyone. As the schedule stands now, the Vandals have no opponents for week 1 or week 3.  Expect a team to be named shortly. Then the Vandals play in Reno Nevada against a former Big Sky and WAC foe in University of Nevada-Reno. Then in week 8 Idaho will face Dixie State in St.George Utah. Who will be a full fledge FCS member, counting as a division 1 game.

Current Grade: A-

Overall a great schedule. Play a former conference rival for the 30th time in the Nevada Wolfpack. In a very fun place for fans to travel to. A+.

You play what should be a lower tier local FCS squad in Dixie State in Moscow. The start of a 3 games series with the Trailblazers. The Big Sky helps out by giving equal spacing between home and away games. It all comes down to Idaho not messing it up by scheduling a bad opponent in week 3 causing a week 1 bye week.

How To Fix It:

Change nothing in the actual schedule except attempt to schedule Dixie State week 3 opening up a later season bye week. Then per my 2022 schedule suggestions return the favor on the home & home with Missouri State in week 1 (currently open)

Bobby Petrino left Western Kentucky after 1 year and the Atlanta Falcons after just 13 games in the middle of the season. The odds he is still coaching at Missouri State in three seasons are slim.

Even Paul Petrino is up in the air at the moment to be at Idaho in 2022. His contract is through 2023. However, is on the hot seat. The 2022 season is the first real strong possibile season he could be fired. If he doesn’t start winning. 2022 is when the amount he would be owed would be reasonable.

Leaving the chance that neither Petrino is at their current job for even the 2022 game. Let alone the 2023 game. Even without one or both of the Petrinos. Missouri State is the type of team Idaho needs to start scheduling if they want to return to being a top flight Big Sky team and perennial playoff contender.

2024, 2025 & Beyond

The Big Sky hasn’t released conference schedules for these years yet. The Vandals do know in 2024 they travel to Dixie State and Oregon. Then host Dixie State and then “Travel” To the Battle of the Palouse. Everything this far out is subject to change.

In Review

Understand the unique position Idaho is in. The Vandals schedule problems are caused by the 2013 independent season. Then compounded upon with move from FBS to FCS.

The suggestions made were realistic changes. Not fantasy changes impossible for Terry Gawlik (Idaho Athletic Director) to deliver. The current scheduling issues are not her decisions. These games were scheduled before she had taken office. The only two scheduling announcements while Gawlik has be the Athletic Director (2022 Drake 2023 Nevada & Dixie State Series). Both announcements were ideal additions to the schedule. The ultimate goal for 2023 is a balanced athletics budget. Allowing future scheduling to be more open, minimize travel, but maximize payouts. The Ideal realistic schedule 2024 and on is Pac 12 School, winnable Mountain West school & home and home with a lower tier FCS program.