Now it comes down to this one game for the seniors.
The San Jose State Spartans have other plans on their minds. They have been inching closer to victory every week, improving on offense and defense. Unfortunately for the Vandals, they will be playing a much improved Spartan club. The Spartans may have only one win, but they have recently found their identity, coming close to upsetting La Tech last week in a 45-38 shootout. A game that was supposed to be an "easy" win this weekend for the Vandals just became a dog fight on the Palouse. San Jose State leads the series 12-8-1, and will be looking to add to that lead as they head into the Kibbie Dome this Saturday at 2pm PST.
When the Vandals Have the Ball
The offense was non-existent in the first half of last week's game in Fresno. Idaho took a step back, letting bad habits of old show up again. Senior quarterback Nathan Enderle faced second and long multiple times, being sacked six times. And not all of these sacks were the fault of the offensive line. Enderle needs to recognize when the pressure is coming and simply get rid of the ball. He failed to do that against the Bulldogs, and put the offense in terrible position throughout the first half. To make things worse, he threw into triple coverage on a screen on the opening drive of the second half which led to a pick six. After the pick, his second half looked more like his regular self, but by then it was too late.
Enderle needs to start fast on Saturday. He can't let a half go before he gets going. Every Vandal knows what he can do when he has time. This means that two of his favorite targets, senior receivers Eric Greenwood and Maurice Shaw, need to run the best routes of their careers if they want to go out in style. Both have the skill to make it a big day for Enderle. The Vandals are only wishing they had the services of senior tight end Daniel Hardy for Enderle to hit, but his available weapons are dangerous enough.
The dedication to the running game has helped Enderle. The offense needs to continue to run effectively to open up the passing game. Senior runningback Deonte Jackson has been the most consistent threat out of the backfield. He's a solid pass blocker, can catch the ball out of the backfield, and can make something out of nothing better than any back on the roster. If the Vandals continue to use Jackson, they should see success in the running game which translates to success on the entire offense. The good news is, the Spartans have struggled stopping the run. It could be a big day for this group.
The offensive line troubles have improved for the Vandals, and though there is still room for improvement, the importance of this game could bring out the best in this unit. This is the last game for senior center Clell Hasenbank and senior guard Tevita HalaHolo. With the finality of it all, it's time to play the game of their lives. With everything that is at stake, Vandal fans should expect to see the rest of the offensive line - Matt Cleveland, Sam Tupua and Tyrone Novikoff - give everything for their fellow linemen, their senior quarterback and their senior runningback. For many of these seniors, it's their last football game.
This emotion can only help.
When the Vandals Are on D
The Vandal defense played well against Fresno State in last week's game, giving up only a few big plays. But for the most part, the Vandal D kept them in check all day long, logging four takeaways. Judging from the point output from the Spartans last week, the defense will have its hands full again this Saturday. It's time for the seniors to shine. There is little doubt they will after what they showcased in the last few weeks.
Vandal fans are sad to see this senior class go. The class includes the big time play of safety Shiloh Keo, the never-ending motor of defensive end Aaron Lavarias, the run stuffing of Jonah Sataraka and Fona Sekona, and a host of hitters in linebackers Joseph Dickson (out due to a season ending injury), Paul Senescall, and special teams demon Brandon Artz.
This Vandal defense really has been improving the last few weeks, and that spells good news for Vandal fans. It looks like they finally recovered from losing JoJo Dickson to injury a few weeks ago against New Mexico State, and have been playing some of their best ball of the season. They'll have their hands full with a quarterback that can throw, but with the way Idaho has been playing defense, they should be able to keep the Spartans from doing too much damage. The defensive line, headed by Aaron Lavarias, should have a big day. And with the air assault the Spartans utilize, there will be balls for the picking.
Scouting the Spartans
Quarterback Jordan La Secla has played well against the Vandals in the past, and from the looks of last week's game, they're gonna throw the ball early and often. Secla was 35-of-65 for 496 yards in last week's game. Secla's favorite target is Jalal Beauchman, but he also has a host of receivers that can catch the ball. He needs them. The SJSU rushing attack has not been good. In fact, San Jose State has a lot of the same problems the Vandals do on offense, so this should be a big day for the Vandal D.
On defense, the Spartans have been bad at times and good at times. Keith Smith and Peyton Thompson are bright spots on this defense. Smith leads the team in tackles while Thompson has been the terror on the defensive line. The Vandal offense should have success against this defense, as they have failed to stop anyone. They can be run on, and they can be passed on. If Enderle starts fast, he could have a monster day.
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 this game for the seniors.It's always good to be back in the Dome. But this day is a special day; it's Senior Day. It's time to say good bye to a class that came to Idaho to help turn things around, and they did just that. This class of seniors set out to change the football culture at Idaho, and they succeeded in doing so, providing some memorable moments for all the fans to cherish. None bigger than last year's Humanitarian Bowl victory.
2.) Give Enderle time.
3.) Have another good defensive performance.
4.) No Special Team goofs.
5.) Play hard the entire game and finish each play.
Let's show up in force for these young men. Vandal fans need to show their appreciation for all the long hours and sweat these guys put into this program. It really has been an amazing ride, and these gentlemen stuck it out and saw their vision through.
Thank you senior class of 2010 for wearing the silver and gold, and helping us turn this thing around.