OVERVIEW: The Vandals struggled, especially on offense, in losing their opener at home to FCS member Eastern Washington last Thursday, Aug. 30. Idaho was without its probable starting quarterback, Dominique Blackman, and had just 223 yards of total offense against an Eastern Washington team that is in the FCS national rankings. Coach Robb Akey is in his sixth season as coach of the Vandals and has a 19-43 record with one bowl bid (that BG football fans should remember). Might Idaho be caught looking ahead? Perhaps, since their opponent next Saturday is some team called LSU.
OFFENSE: The Vandals finished with 70 yards rushing (on 30 rush attempts, including 29 negative yards rushing) and completed just 17-of-35 passes for 153 yards with two interceptions. All that may change when Blackman, a former Washington recruit who stands 6-5 and weighs 255 pounds, takes over at QB. Blackman has not played since 2010, when he threw for more than 3,700 yards and had 35 TD passes for L.A. Harbor Junior College. Despite his size, his stats indicate he is more of a pocket passer than runner. Senior Ryan Bass, an Arizona State transfer, is the top runner but had just 175 yards last season because of injury. Blackman will have a number of talented targets to throw to, most notably senior Justin Veltung (20 catches, 231 yards last season because of injury) and junior-college addition Najee Lovett (eight catches, 105 yards in the opener). Junior TE Michael LaGrone also is a threat after making 21 receptions for 262 yards a year ago. The offensive line is anchored by sophomore C Mike Marboe but has only one other returning starter in RG A.J. Jones, a senior. Two freshmen, Cody Elenz at LT and Dallas Sandberg at LG, are listed as the starters at their positions.
DEFENSE: The Vandals kept Eastern Washington in check to a degree, allowing 388 yards of total offense. EWU had 144 yards rushing but averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. But Idaho did not force any turnovers, gave up 5.7 yards per play and didn’t have any sacks. The defensive line, which is a generally inexperienced group, is led by junior QuayShawne Buckley, who had five tackles against Eastern Washington, including one for loss. The Vandals lost the leaders of their linebacking corps from a year ago but do return senior Robert Siavii, who was injured and missed all of last season. MLB Su’a Tuala, also a senior, led Idaho with 11 tackles against the Eagles while another senior, WLB Conrad Scheidt, finished with eight, including a pair behind the line. The defensive backfield also returns two starters, including senior safety Gary Walker, who had 13 tackles last season against BG and seven last week against EWU, and senior cornerback Aaron Grymes, who made five tackles against Eastern Washington.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Vandals are strong in this area, returning an experienced kicker, punter and return specialist. … Senior Trey Farquhar will handle the place-kicking and kickoffs. Last year he made 10-of-15 field goals, including kicks of 55 and 50 yards, but had just two of his 47 kickoffs last season go for a touchback. … Senior Bobby Cowan is a talented punter who last season averaged 46.4 yards per kick (second-best in FBS), including a 76-yard boot. He is a two-time all Western Athletic Conference choice who is on the Ray Guy Award watch list. … Senior Justin Veltung will handle the punt and kickoff returns for the Vandals. In his career, Veltung has averaged 22.9 yards per kickoff return and 16.8 yards per punt return and has returned two kickoffs AND two punts for touchdowns.
BG KEYS TO VICTORY: 1. Be consistent on offense. It looks as if the Falcons will be able to run and to pass against the Vandals. BG needs to take advantage of whatever looks it gets, and limit the mistakes to keep drives moving and not give Idaho any turnovers. 2. Be prepared on defense. Since the Vandals starting QB didn’t play against Eastern Washington, the Falcons may be in for a surprise there. BG needs to keep talented players such as Bass, Veltung and Lovett from springing big plays. 3. Take the lead. It's hard to imagine that Idaho might be a little timid Saturday, coming off a disappointing loss. That's why it's important for BG to take command early in all three phases of the game and not give the Vandals any hope for victory. 4. All eyes on the team from the Potato state. The loss to Florida must be behind the Falcons. Next week’s game against Toledo must be ignored. Idaho probably is not as bad as people believe, with the loss to the FCS team serving as the basis for that belief. A new quarterback, a chance for redemption from last week, and a chance to avenge last year’s loss to the Falcons should make Idaho a dangerous opponent Saturday.