Vandals Prepare For Broncs Bombers

With another disastrous loss to a 1-AA football team still echoing within the giant arches of the Kibbie Dome, Idaho begins preparing for its annual showdown with archrival Boise State. In 2 games Idaho has suffered some substantial personnel losses on offense. Overall the Vandals have shown signs of some much needed improvement on defense while the offense in general tries to find its identity - and its motor.

In the wake of the EWU debacle this evening, I seriously considered for awhile not doing this "story swap" with Rafter17 regarding our 2 teams. I mean, the fact our O hasn't scored a touchdown in 2 games is just a little disturbing, especially given the opponent we now have on the docket and the sheer joy they take in seeing how close they can get to triple digits in scoring.

But, that wouldn't fit in with the whole "give it the ol' college try" thing of collegiate sports. More importantly, I don't expect our team to throw in the towel because of the problems they are having on offense right now, so I'm not going to either. Below is a fan's perception of his struggling football team…take it with as many grains of salt as you feel necessary. Image
Mike Anderson
6-4, 238, RS-Soph
Outside Linebacker

I'll start here, because frankly, it's the easiest. Given the amount of time the Vandal offense has tried to keep this unit on the field in the first 2 games this season (not a bad idea, given how much the offense has struggled so far), the defense has managed to not only rise to the occasion, but look good doing it. Three young safeties have been moved up to linebacker to provide depth and better speed in nickel coverage. One young linebacker has been moved to defensive end to improve depth now and in the future. And the defensive backfield has as much good depth as we've had back there in years. And yes, we know we'll need it all (and then some) this weekend.

Defensive Line: The probable starters will be Brian Howard and Kelly Talavou at the 2 tackle spots, and Brandon Kania and Kody Kraus at the defensive ends. The defensive tackle rotation is relatively thin at just 4 players, with Mike Togafau and Jeff Edwards coming in for support. The defensive ends are backed up by RS-Fr Andrew Stobart and RS-Soph Mike Bonelli, plus converted linebacker RS-Soph Tim Bertalot. Through the first 2 games the defensive end rotation has been the strongest, but Togafau (a converted OL) and Edwards (a converted DE) have begun stepping up their game.

Linebackers: Clearly one of the primary strengths of the defense. Going into the season we expected a significant drop-off behind the starting trio of Mike Anderson (6-4, 238, RS-Soph) and a couple returning senior starters in Patrick Libey and Chad Kodama. But defensive coordinator Ed Lamb has moved safety Nate Nichols forward, and Nate has seen significant PT as a backup outside linebacker. RS-Fr outside linebacker Robert Davis and Curtis Bibolet (both also converted safeties) have also seen a lot of game time and are doing well in backup duty. Add in RS-Soph middle linebacker Cole Snyder, and the unit has good agility, size, and is gaining good experience for a relatively young group.

Defensive Backs: Expected to be a bit of a strength for a change in Moscow this year, the group so far has played admirably well. Of course, the get the mother of all challenges this weekend, so their relatively deep rotation will likely be tested all night long. The starting four will likely be Rod Bryant and Ben Allen or Chris Nathan at the corners, with Darryl Murphy and Robert Ortega at the safeties. Chris started against WSU and looked good, but Ben got quite a bit of time against EWU. RS-Jr J.R. Ruffin also will start working into the rotation this week after gaining his eligibility late last week. The safeties have also looked good, with Chad Troxel and JC transfer Jarvis Huff coming in as backups. Against EWU true freshman Chad Pool came in at strong safety and played extremely well, leading Idaho in tackles on the night (8) with a forced fumble/fumble recovery and pass breakup. This group will probably get one of its biggest tests of the season next weekend (followed by UW and Montana), so we'll find out just how much progress the group has truly made.

DEFENSE OVERALL: The 2003 Vandal defense has been a pleasant surprise…and the one thing that has kept us in our games so far. They looked good against Wazzu, and they essentially shut EWU down (the Eagle's only score came on the heels of a Vandal turnover deep in our own territory in the 4th quarter). But they can't stay on the field all game long and expect to pitch a shutout while the offense continues to try to figure things out….certainly not against a team with the scoring weapons BSU possesses. If the offense can put up some points then this defense looks like it may be good enough to keep the game interesting. If the offense falters for the 3rd week in a row...well, you get the picture.

Ted S. Warren (AP)
Mike Harrington
6-4, 197, RS-Soph


What can you say? This group has struggled immensely, not with speed or anything like that. This group just has not looked like they've been on the same page…or even reading the same book. Overthrowing or missing wide-open receivers on one play, then threading the needle on the next. Dropped passes by wide-open receivers with room to run, then incredible ariel receptions on the next play. Running hard one play and getting shoestring tackled the next. Picking up an incredibly complicated blitz one play, getting beaten by 4 man rush the next. And an untimely array of penalties. It's been all over the map, and something difficult to watch.

Quarterback: This has been the most controversial position, and for good reason. Senior Brian Lindgren was last year's 1st Team All-Conference quarterback, and he's been unseated by RS-Soph Michael Harrington. Harrington has looked impressive on some plays, way-off on other players, and the victim of some poorly timed penalties by his unit. He gave up 3 picks against Wazzu, and none this week against EWU. Unfortunately, he was off the mark regularly during the first 3 quarters against the Eagles, and had a wide-open receiver drop a perfect pass 4 yards outside the end zone at the end of an impressive drive. The offense has a long way to go to start working as a cohesive unit, and as such this first year starter does as well.

Receivers: Probable starters against BSU at wide receiver are Orlando Winston and Bobby Bernal-Wood (missed EWU game due to violating undisclosed team rules). Expect to see a lot of Matt Miller and Jeff Stowe as well. The rotation rounds out with RS-Fr Wendell Octave, RS-Jr Jimmy Labita, and senior Cedric Thompson. All 7 have at times looked impressive, and all 7 have at times had drive killing, and momentum killing, dropped passes. In general the speed in the depth chart of this group is a substantial upgrade from last season, and it has shown so far against Wazzu and EWU. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the QB and receivers have had a lot of trouble connecting on any sort of a consistent basis. If and when that happens, this should be a fun group to watch. Until then, a Vandal offense geared toward the pass will continue to struggle. Image
Mike McCoy
6-3, 252, Senior

Tightends: At tightend, Idaho lost RS-Soph Luke Smith-Anderson for the season during the Wazzu game to an ACL injury, a year after losing him to the same injury to the other knee. Enter senior Mike McCoy, a co-starter going into this season and the primary starter now. He will be backed up by senior Kelly Nead who started 10 games for Idaho last year with McCoy and Smith-Anderson out. Although Luke was the best receiver of the 3, Mike is a pretty good receiver as well, with 3 catches against EWU including a long of 20 yards. Idaho will need both Mike and Kelly to have big games Saturday, and throughout the remainder of the season.

Runningbacks/Fullbacks: Idaho was dealt a harsh blow with the loss of starting fullback Keith Greer during the Wazzu game. Keith played in 10 games last year as a true freshman tightend, and was a significant threat coming out of the backfield as a receiver (3 catches against the Cougs). His backups so far (Brian Yarno will likely be the starter) have been mostly used as blockers. The runningbacks have also seen significant highs and lows. Against EWU Malfred Shaw ran for 100+ yards and was impressive at times, but struggled a few times converting when we really needed a yard or two. Zach also ran well against EWU, and will likely share starting duties against BSU.

Offensive Line: With 2 new starters (a couple RS-Fr in Nate VanderPol and Jade Tadvick), it was apparent this group would need some time to gel. Unfortunately, like every other offensive position, this group has had its share of inconsistency from play to play. In general they seem to be doing a better job protecting the quarterback than a year ago, but when this group absolutely needs to gain a couple yards to keep a drive alive, they still have had their struggles.

OFFENSE OVERALL: It's been so long since we've seen a Vandal offense that has had THIS much trouble scoring, that most Vandal fans are speechless. In all honesty, you pretty much have to go pre-Erickson to find a Vandal team that hadn't scored an offensive touchdown in 2 consecutive games. The Vandals don't have a 6-4 WR with 4.30 speed to send downfield, but they certainly have enough speed to get the job done. Actually, their problem hasn't been getting open, its been getting them the ball when they are open, and being able to hang on to the pass consistently enough when it is there (especially when they've been within spitting distance of the endzone). The unit is struggling in most facets, which is dramatically affecting their consistency. Their inconsistency (and the whole untimely penalty thing) is resulting in too many short drives, which ultimately increases the burden on the defense. If the entire offense can get onto the same page, then they have the horses their for some success this year.

Unfortunately, you just don't want to hang your hat on it happening against an opponent like BSU.


Overall, the Special Teams have been among the most consistent units on the Vandal team thus far. The kickoff and punt units continue to perform admirably, yielding little ground in the first 2 games of the season and doing a pretty good job pinning opponents deep in their own territory.

Field goal kicking still is looking for some consistency, although probable starter against BSU, Brian Pope, hit a 45 yarder Saturday against EWU (he also missed a 40 yarder that would have tied the game in the 4th quarter).

Punting continues to be a strong suit with senior Ryan Downes booting the ball (against EWU he averaged a modest 37.5 yards, with a long of 53 yards).

The return teams have been relatively quiet since Matt Miller ripped off a 64 yard return against Wazzu in the season opener (he had a 36 yarder against EWU). Cedric Thompson does the punt return duties, and has been fairly quiet this year so far (29 yards on 4 punt returns against EWU). Idaho will probably need this group to have a strong, presence against BSU, but for now this group has been performing as well as could be expected early on.

Bronco Country Top Stories