Big Damm Preview: Game 5 – Portland State vs. Idaho

IT’S HOMECOMING WEEKEND! The Vandals look to pick up their second win of the season when the Portland State Vikings come to the Kibbie Dome.

Last Game:
The Vandals lost to then-#8 UC Davis 27-20, after blowing a 20-13 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Portland State went on the road and beat Southern Utah 20-13.

Last Meeting:
October 12th, 2019 – The Vikings shut out the Vandals 24-0 in Oregon as Mason Petrino and Colton Richardson both threw a pair of interceptions.


Quarterbacks:
In typical Idaho fashion, CJ Jordan was named the starting quarterback against UC Davis, then promptly got hurt on the first drive without ever attempting a pass. Jordan’s shoulder injury is expected to keep him out for a few weeks. Let us know on Twitter if you can correctly guess the last year that a Vandal QB was named the starter and played through the entire conference schedule without injury or substitution.

Zach Borisch continued to do Zach Borisch things, running 10 times for 82 yards and 2 TDs (#LetBorischThrow), highlighted by the 60 yard run to open the scoring on the first drive of the game. Mike Beaudry stepped in off the bench after the Jordan injury and served as the QB for most snaps. Beaudry went 22 for 35 with 255 yards and one INT. Beaudry passed the eye test, completing over 62 percent of his passes in what was one of his better games as a Vandal. Expect to see Beaudry running the offense while Borisch comes in as a change of pace. [editor’s note: Perhaps head coach Paul Petrino noticed how UC Davis’s running quarterback Trent Tompkins shredded the Vandal defense when they had to respect the possibility of the throw. Alas, this is likely just the wistful yearning of a tired editor.]

Portland State’s quarterback situation is more settled than Idaho’s, with Davis Alexander being one of the longest tenured QBs in the Big Sky. On the year, Alexander is completing 58% of his passes (109 for 188) for 1405 yards, 8 TDs, and 6 INTs. His 1405 passing yards is second in the Big Sky Conference. Alexander is also the second leading rusher for the Vikings, with 111 yards and 2 TDs on the ground.

Idaho’s Key Players/Statistics:
Welcome to the Terez Traynor show? Hayden Hatten is typically Beaudry’s favorite receiver, but had just three receptions for fifteen yards in his return after missing the Oregon State game. Traynor had over half of the passing game’s output, with 10 receptions for 131 yards. On the season, Traynor now leads the Vandals with 20 catches and 230 yards, followed closely by Hatten’s 15 catches for 215 yards (in one fewer game.) Roshaun Johnson did not get a carry against the Aggies, but Elisha Cummings proved more than capable in his absence, with 15 carries for 125 yards and an incredible 8.3 yards per carry. Aundre Carter has solidified himself as the short-yardage back, with seven carries for just 12 yards last week, but that did come with a goal-line touchdown.

The Vandal defense put on a show against Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. last week, holding the All-Big Sky Conference caliber running back to just 61 yards on 19 carries. Unfortunately, UC Davis shifted their offense in the fourth quarter and running QB Trent Tompkins put up 85 yards on 13 carries. Fa’Avae Fa’Avae led the defense last week with ten total tackles, while Noah Elliss and Charles Akanno each registered a sack. Tommy McCormick registered two tackles for loss and an interception. Sean and Tommy, the brothers McCormick, are now responsible for two of the three Vandal takeaways this season.

Caleb Lightbourn has continued to be a worthy successor to Cade Coffey, averaging 46 yards per punt against the Aggies, with a long of 67. Unfortunately, the rest of the special teams unit continues to struggle, as yet another kick was blocked last week. Does Alex “The BOAT” Boatman need to brush up his resume and apply to join the coaching staff as a special teams assistant?

Portland State’s Key Players/Statistics:
The Viking offense runs through their dual threat QB with dual first names, but expect to see a heavy dose of running back Malik Walker, who has 73 rushes for 297 yards and four TDs on the season. Walker is also the fourth leading receiver on the team, with 12 receptions for 39 yards. Receivers Beau Kelly, Darien Chase, and Nate Bennett serve as Alexander’s primary targets, with 81 receptions for 1143 yards and seven TDs between them. Kelly paces the group with 33 catches, 486 yards, and four TDs, a top three receiver in the Big Sky in most statistical categories.

Safety Anthony Adams leads the Portland State defense with two INTs and a fumble recovery, while also registering 21 tackles, good for third on the team. Adams was an All-American in virtually every publication in 2019, received countless 2021 preseason accolades, and is on the watchlist for the Buck Buchanan award alongside Vandal linebacker Tre Walker. Defensive tackle VJ Malo leads the Vikings with five and a half sacks (second in the Big Sky Conference) and eight tackles for loss. Linebacker Parker McKenna leads PSU with 39 total tackles.

Punter Seth Vernon’s 48.2 yard average leads the Big Sky Conference, while his nine punts of 50+ yards is tied for first in the conference.

Key to the Game:
Can the Vandal secondary limit Beau Kelly and the rest of the PSU receivers? The front seven should be able to contain the legs of Alexander and Walker, but can the secondary cover long enough to end drives early and often?

Game Predictions:
Producer Dallas: This is it folks. This is the game the entire season hinges on. After hanging close with top-10 UC Davis, a confident win here could be the momentum needed for Idaho to make a stand in the Big Sky. Or, a loss here could make 3-4 wins the ceiling of this season. Initially, I was going to take PSU in a close one, but the rest of the Tubs team talked me into the Vandals. Portland State has never won in Moscow, and that continues as Idaho gets the 21-20 win.
Boatman: Idaho 31-17
Brian: Idaho 24-17
Chris: Idaho 21-20 [editor’s note: Chris’s prediction came before Producer Dammer’s, who should have made his own unique prediction.]

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.