GAMEDAY: Vandals clash with Warriors

WITH THE LOSS OF SENIOR TEAM CAPTAIN JOJO DICKSON TO A SEASON ENDING INJURY, junior heavy hitter TRE'SHAWN ROBINSON will step into his starting middle linebacker role. This is a crucial game for Idaho (4-3, 1-1 WAC) as they continue on their quest for a second consecutive bowl berth. Standing in their way is a rugged Hawaii (6-2, 4-0 WAC) team riding the wave of a 5-game winning streak.

This Saturday the Idaho Vandals will be on the Island of Oahu to take on conference foe Hawaii. The Warriors are currently in first place in league play with a 4-0 record, having beaten Louisiana Tech, Fresno State, Nevada and Utah State. The Vandals have had no luck beating the Warriors on the Island, and this year the task seems as difficult as ever. This Warrior team is high-octane on offense and starting to play stingy defense. They tallied 605 yards of offense against Utah State, while holding them to 181 yards of total offense. Meanwhile the momentum the Vandals gained from their victory over New Mexico State was dampened by the season ending injury to starting middle linebacker Joseph Dickson.

A four year starter and Team Captain, Dickson has been an integral part of the Vandal defense for the past 4 seasons. He was a leader in changing the program around, providing big plays, big hits, and sideline-to-sideline speed. Voted a team captain by his teammates, his emotional leadership as well as his physical play is a huge loss for the Vandals. There is no doubt he will be missed by all; coaches, teammates and fans. This game will be played with JoJo on the minds of his teammates, and that, as Coach Akey would say, is a very good thing.

When the Vandals Have the Ball

The Vandals' offense will need to put two halves together if they want to leave the island with a win. Something they didn't do last week. On the bright side, the Vandal passing game continues to put up big numbers. Nathan Enderle completed 25-of-47 attempts for 291 yards and three touchdowns, but the passing game disappeared in the second half. Another not-so-bright spot, the Vandals generated a lowly 88 yards on 27 rushing attempts. The run game is dissolving before every Vandal fan's eyes.

Enderle's pocket presence and ability to spread the ball around is what makes this offense dangerous. The passing game can move the chains. No one has been able to keep Nathan Enderle from hitting Daniel Hardy. Hardy has a knack for finding the soft spots and getting open. He's got great hands and is tough to bring down. Eric Greenwood and Maurice Shaw also do a nice job of getting open, and both are big down-field targets. But if the Vandals want to have success against the Warrior defense, they'll have to utilize the speed of Justin Veltung. Veltung has the jets and shifty quickness to take it to the house on every touch.

Still, the offensive run blocking continues to struggle. Even with a fullback and H-Back leading the way, there is little push coming from the Vandal offense. The running duties fell to tailbacks Deonte Jackson and Princeton McCarty this season. But while McCarty had a nice 13 yard touchdown scamper and Jackson caught passes for 71 yards last weekend against the Aggies, Idaho needs more out of the two veteran runningbacks. Kama Bailey could see a few more carries in misdirection plays. Those seem to be some of the better running plays from scrimmage. Every week the offensive line is under the microscope. How many rushing yards will the Vandals get? How many sacks will they allow? Considering the recent play of the Warrior defense, this test should be one of the toughest of the season.

When the Vandals Are on D

Once again, the Vandal defense showed up. They did have their lapse before the half, and that needs to be cleaned up. But holding the Aggie offense to just 289 total yards was an impressive outing, especially considering the situation with JoJo Dickson. Other good news is that the defense held New Mexico State to eight completions. This bodes well going into an excellent passing team in the Warriors. Dickson will be a significant loss, but Treshawn Robinson has plenty of experience and big play potential. He will assume the starting role at middle linebacker. Robert Siavii and Homer Mauga retain their respective jobs on the weak and strong sides.

The defensive line played a very good game, filling the gaps and creating the clog to stop the running game. Aaron Lavarias has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Vandals. But when it comes to Hawaii's dual-threat quarterback and a big, physical running back, there will be double the duty in stopping the run. The play of Benson Mayowa is starting to turn heads. His athleticism is finally being complimented by his growing experience. He is slowly becoming the force the Vandals needed opposite Lavarias. That's not to say Andre Ferguson isn't. The duo of Mayowa and Ferguson provides a nice one-two rotation that solidifies that end position. The ends need to contain Hawaii Saturday, so Lavarias, Mayowa and Ferguson and the rest will have their work cut out for them.

The Vandal defensive backfield has not seen an offense like this. There will be plenty of passes thrown, and the Warriors have two of the best receivers in the nation. Shiloh Keo and Gary Walker will continue to roam downfield at the strong safety and free safety spots, respectively. Thaad Thompson will continue to see playing time. With Isaac Butts no longer on the team, Kenny Patten takes over the cornerback position with Aaron Grymes on the other side. Grymes will most likely play against the Warriors leading receiver Greg Salas. This should be the stiffest test these guys have seen all season.

Scouting the Warriors

The Warriors are, once again, loaded with talent. Not only are they the top team in the WAC, they are fresh off their best performance this season. Quarterback Bryant Moniz is having a monster year, averaging 365 yards per game and leading the top passing team in the nation. He already has 22 TD passes on the season. It doesn't hurt having Greg Salas as a prime target. Salas led the nation in receptions for most of last year and that trend has not stopped. Kealoha Pilares is Moniz's other favorite target. Both receivers are averaging over 100 yards per game.

Hawaii has also found a solid running game. Alex Green, a 6-2, 230 pound beast, is coming off his best performance of the season. His 172 yard, four-touchdown performance against Utah State earned him WAC Offensive Player of the week. The Warrior offensive line averages around 300 pounds, and boasts three juniors and two seniors. There is plenty of experience.

Offense isn't the only thing going for the Warriors. They are coming off their best defensive performance of the 2010 season. Led by junior linebacker Corey Paredes, this defense excels in turnovers. The athletic Paredes was named WAC Defensive Player of the Week after grabbing two interceptions and logging ten tackles against Utah State. He leads the Warrior defense in tackles with 92 on the year. In fact, the defense boasts twelve interceptions and ten fumble recoveries already in 2010. The Hawaii defense is all about pressure. They are big, strong and fast. In other words; they are very athletic.

Vandals will remember the name Satele. Hawaii has a lock on this family of talented players. Liko Satele will start at left end for the Warriors. Zach Masch and Kamalu Umu are two other names Vandals fans will know by the end of the game. Masch is 6'2, 275 of pure motor, while Umu, 6'2, 295, has burst onto the defensive scene for the Warriors. There is lots of experience in this unit, especially in the defensive backfield. Safeties Spencer Smith, Richard Torres, and Mana Silva provide big, physical play roaming the field. At cornerback, seniors Lametrius Davis and Jeramy Bryant will have cover duties downfield.

What the Vandals Need To Do

In order for the Vandals to win, they will need to do a few key things in this football game.
1.) Win the game for JoJo
2.) Play hard all four quarters.
3.) Secure the ball.
4.) Stop the run on defense.
5.) Prepare for a shootout.
6.) Run crisp routes.
7.) Trey Farquhar and Bobby Cowan need to build on last week's stellar performances.
Its island time Vandals! Historically speaking, that isn't necessarily a good thing for the Vandals. There has been little to no football success for Idaho on the island. But things are made to change, and this Vandal team is game. A little added inspiration can go a long way, and that's what JoJo's unfortunate situation has created.

But it must go beyond the team. Vandal fans, it's time to show the love and support that JoJo deserves. If the team is going to win for JoJo, then the fans need to fly to the island, pile up in front of the TV or crowd around the radio and send the Vandal vibe across the ocean!

Let's do it for JoJo! Let's do it for the Silver and the Gold!

We are the Tribe from the North!

Go Vandals!

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