It looks like the Vandal seniors might have decided to step up and fight for their post season lives. Nathan Enderle went 20-of-31 for 243 yards and three touchdowns last weekend against the Aggies. Eric Greenwood caught 4 balls for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Deonte Jackson ran for a team leading 62 yards on 18 carries while scoring on the ground and through the air. Jackson gained that yardage behind seniors Clell Hasenbank and Tevita Halaholo. On defense, Jonah Sataraka, Fonomanu Sekona, Aaron Lavarias and Shiloh Keo made their presence on the field felt. It really was a display of senior leadership. And with Daniel Hardy and Joseph Dickson sidelined for the season, they have provided their own brand of leadership from the sidelines to their teammates.
This sense of urgency needs to be stronger than ever if the Idaho Vandals are to finally beat the Fresno State Bulldogs.
When the Vandals have the Ball
Everything fell into place for the Vandals last weekend. Nathan Enderle threw the ball well, Deonte Jackson ran the ball well, and the offensive line had their best showing of the year. The Vandals will have to continue these trends – and at a higher level – if they want to win Saturday. When Enderle has time, he can pick a defense apart. How much time he gets in the pocket is a result of both a successful running game and good pass protection. Matt Cleveland, Sam Tupua, Clell Hasenbank, Tyrone Novikoff, Jordan Johnson and Tevita HalaHolo are finally showing they can move the pile and provide protection.
The passing game still needs to somehow get Maurice Shaw involved. Shaw has proven that he can stretch the field and provide the big play, but it just hasn't happened on the field this year. If the Vandals can pull off this kind of play, it could dramatically help their chances in their bid for an upset. Outside of that, Enderle needs to pick up where he left off last week. His poise in the pocket and his check downs were a key element in last week's win. The Enderle-to-Greenwood connection has plenty of momentum and should continue to give opposing defenses fits. Enderle has plenty of weapons, and if he continues to work the middle of the field, it will open up the running game and open up the sideline shots down field.
The running game has to be effective. Without it, everything crumbles. Deonte Jackson, Princeton McCarty and Kama Bailey should see the bulk of the carries, but a new wrinkle in the offense has been Justin Veltung on the reverse. Veltung's speed is excellent, but his vision could use a little help when reading his blocks. Bailey and Veltung bring a dynamic to the Vandal offense that keeps defenses honest. If the Vandals pull off some long runs, it could bust the passing offense wide open.
When the Vandals are on D
Senior defensive end Aaron Lavarias is on a terror. His motor is non-stop, and his knack for big plays has been the one constant when the Vandals are on defense. The entire defensive line played well in last week's game, shutting down rushing lanes and pushing the quarterback out of the pocket. Fresno State will not only line up under center, they will also show shotgun formation as well as the wildcat. If the defensive line can have the success they did one week ago, this could bode well for another fine defensive performance. Jonah Sataraka, Michael Cosgrove and Fona Sekona will need to provide push, filling the rushing lanes and pushing Fresno State's rushing attack outside. Andre Ferguson had a solid performance on the other end of Lavarias. The Vandals will need him to put out another top notch performance to limit the rushing yards out of FSU.
The linebackers are playing with a renewed sense of confidence. It took a little while for them to rebound from the JoJo Dickson injury, but Treshawn Robinson has filled in nicely, arriving with a purpose and laying some of the season's best hits. Robert Savaii was inches away from taking one to the house. He's had a few of those interceptions slip through his hands. If he can hang onto the ball, it could be a game changing opportunity.
Tracy Carter, Kenny Patten and Aaron Grymes also played well in last week's game. But they need to come up with a takeaway. There is no doubt that every week they've improved on their coverage. If the defensive line can get pressure, it could force Ryan Colburn into a bad throw, and a much needed interception. Whatever the case may be, the Vandal defensive backfield cannot get down if a big play happens. This goes for the entire defensive backfield. It seems that when the big play does happen, there is finger pointing going on instead of forgetting about it and moving on. Mistakes will happen, it's how you handle adversity that counts.
Scouting the Bulldogs
Senior quarterback Ryan Colburn has had a pretty good season. Throwing for 18 touchdowns this year, he has emerged into the leader the bulldogs needed. His favorite target has been junior Jamel Hamler. He's who the Vandals have to shut down.
Once again, the strength of the Bulldog offense is their running game. Sophomore runningback Robbie Rouse has burst onto the scene, promising to be another NFL caliber tailback coming out of Fresno. Rouse sustained a broken hand in last week's matchup, but is determined to play. No matter the case, the Vandals can expect to see A.J. Ellis running the ball as well.
On defense, the Bulldogs have one of the best lines in the WAC, featuring end Chris Carter and tackle Logan Harrell. Both rank nationally in sacks, which is never good considering the Vandals habit of giving them up. Senior linebacker Ben Jacobs leads the team with 56 tackles.
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.) Establish a running game.As was stated before, this game is never easy. Fresno State and Idaho will be playing for their post season lives. Who wants this victory more? The game is winnable for Idaho, but only if the offense can sustain an offensive drive. The Vandals need to build on last week's road victory at Utah State and effectively run the ball, while playing stingy defense. The other area where the Vandals need to play sound football is in their Special Teams play. Too many mental mistakes have been happening. Last week the Vandals were able to overcome these mistakes, but the Bulldogs aren't as forgiving.
2.) Sack Ryan Colburn.
3.) No careless penalties.
4.) Sound Special Teams play.
5.) Give Enderle time.
6.) Idaho needs to want this win more than Fresno.
If the Vandals can right some things on offense, and continue to improve on defense, this could be the next chapter in a dramatic finish to the 2010 football season. There are some seniors that have no quit on this team, so you know the Vandals will come ready to play. Vandal fans need to come ready to cheer. Let's show the Bulldogs what the Tribe from the North can bring to Jim Sweeney Field!