Idaho (2-7) at B-Y-U (6-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 12th, 9:15 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,725) -- Provo, Utah. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Idaho 1-4, BYU 4-1. Away Record: Idaho 1-3, BYU 2-2. Neutral Record: Idaho 0-0, BYU 0-0. Conference Record: Idaho 1-4, BYU 0-0. Series Record: Idaho leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The Idaho Vandals shoot for back-to-back wins for the first time this season as they challenge the BYU Cougars in non-conference action at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday night.
Idaho, which had just a single win through the first eight games, refused to back down against San Jose State on the road last weekend and came away with a thrilling 32-29 victory, the first of the year against not only another member of the Western Athletic Conference, but also the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Vandals, winners of a 44-14 decision against North Dakota in the second week of the campaign, snapped a six-game slide as they recorded their first road triumph of the season as well.
As for the Cougars, they are coming off a bye week following just their third loss of the season, a 38-28 setback versus TCU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. BYU, which is now an Independent after competing in the Mountain West Conference, has a record of 4-1 at home, although that one loss was an ugly 54-10 defeat at the hands of in-state rival Utah back in September.
In a series that dates back to 1953, Idaho holds a slim 2-1 advantage over the Cougars. The Vandals won the most recent meeting, way back in 1955, by a score of 49-6 on the road.
Kama Bailey scored a pair of touchdowns for the Vandals on the ground against San Jose State last Saturday, as the team rebounded from a 20-point deficit in the first half to claim a thrilling three-point conference road win. Bailey finished the day with a game-high 163 yards on the ground, while quarterback Taylor Davis hit on 13-of-20 passes for 162 yards and another score, although he was picked off once and sacked five times. Davis, who stepped in for Brian Reader even though the latter was at the top of the depth chart heading into the week, has played sparingly this year but the fact that he was the one who helped the Vandals bounce back last weekend means he'll probably be on the field again against BYU. However, whomever is handling the QB duties for the Vandals they probably wont have Justin Veltung to match up with because he is questionable with a toe injury. Adding to the problems of the passing game is the loss of Armauni Johnson who is expected to miss the remainder of the season with an arm injury. Needless to say, that places more pressure on Bailey and Princeton McCarty coming out of the backfield.
Even though the Idaho defense started off a bit sluggish versus the Spartans, in the end the Vandals limited the hosts to a mere 68 rushing yards on 25 attempts. The pass defense did permit Matt Faulkner to generate 289 yards through the air, but with just one TD pass he ended up doing very little damage overall. When it counted the most the Vandals stepped up their efforts, allowing San Jose State to possess the ball for a mere 4:15 in the fourth quarter and less than 11 minutes in the second half overall. The pass defense has been rather suspect all season for the Vandals and is now ranked not only last in the WAC, but 110th in the country with allowing 281.6 ypg. The run defense is considerably stronger, giving up 124.9 ypg to rank 34th in the country, but that might be only because opponents have seized the opportunities afforded by a leisurely pass defense.
Jake Heaps was the starter at quarterback for the Cougars through the first several games of this season, but with just three passing scores and six interceptions now the job has been turned over to Riley Nelson who has sparked the unit with 12 TDs and only five picks while converting close to 60 percent of his pass attempts. Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo have been keys figures in the passing attack thus far, each player registering four receiving scores, even though the latter has caught 14 fewer passes thus far. Coming out of the backfield, J.J. Di Luigi has done the most damage in terms of rushing yards (415) and touchdowns (three), his 5.1 yards per attempt being the best of the bunch when it comes to true running backs. Nelson is averaging five and a half yards per carry, but having him expose his body to more violent hits in the open field is not always the best idea.
When it comes to the defense for the Cougars, for the most part the squad has been able to withstand most advances, except for when it comes to those two teams that used to be connected with BYU in the Mountain West. Between Utah and TCU, the squads combined to record 92 points in two games versus BYU this season, while no other opponent has scored more than four touchdowns and five foes have been held to 17 points or less. The pass efficiency defense for the Cougars has been very strong this year, ranking 18th in the nation with a rating of 112.93 over the course of nine games. The squad has made 11 interceptions along the way which is a decent number, but because the Cougars have tossed 11 picks themselves and have lost possession of 12 fumbles, a turnover margin of minus-0.56 right now has the entire program ranked 96th in the country.
The change in quarterback for the Vandals may have given them a spark last week, but trying to turn the trick again versus BYU, especially on the road, will be tough to duplicate.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 41, Idaho 20
11/09 10:34:57 ET