Vandals search for answers, host North Dakota

COMING OFF THE STINGING HOME OPENING LOSS TO BOWLING GREEN LAST WEEKEND, the Vandals will look to even their season record with a victory over North Dakota this Saturday (2pm PST kickoff). Given Idaho's struggles last weekend, the Vandals (0-1) will have their hands full against a Fighting Sioux (1-0) team coming off a shutout victory and plans to pay Idaho back for last year's 45-0 drubbing.


The Vandals played so poorly in their opener against Bowling Green, it's hard to get a bead on what may take place this Saturday when they take on the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. While the Vandals are reeling from a home 32-15 defeat to Bowling Green, UND is coming off a 16- 0 win over Drake. Needless to say, they will be headed to Moscow with a swagger. Displaying little offense and spotty defense, Vandal fans can only hope a better performance is played out in the Kibbie Dome, or it could be another long afternoon of football.

There is little doubt this team has talent. But whether they can put four full quarters of quality football together is still up in the air. It seemed that everything that could go wrong in a football game went wrong. Starting QB Brian Reader has to do better than his 17-of-43 for 177 yards in the season opener.

But the same could be said about the entire offense.

The offensive line struggled throughout the entire game. A unit with high expectations going into the season allowed four sacks and a safety – that is no way to start the season. Without good line play, the offense will continue to headline three and outs, and Bobby Cowan may end up being a household name in the world of college football.

The running attack couldn't get on track, but Ryan Bass showed signs of what could be if the line gels. The play of receiver Mike Scott was the lone bright spot in an otherwise abysmal day for the passing game. Multiple missed routes and dropped balls made Reader's job tougher than it needed to be.

If Vandal fans are looking for positives, they did exist, but with little consistency. Bottom line, the offense needs to improve in all areas.

The same can be said for the defense.

The Vandal D shored things up in the second half, but it was too little too late. It was tough to overcome the lack of play in the first half, making the second half performance a footnote in an overall ugly performance. Bowling Green racked up 478 yards on offense, and made it look easy. The defenses' top performer was defensive back Gary Walker with13 tackles.

Little else can be said about the performance. The defensive line play was good at times, but lacked a potent punch. The linebacker play was the same. There needs to be more pressure from the line and better angles from the linebackers. After coming out and shutting down Bowling Green cold in the first series, the intensity disappeared. And as far as the defensive backfield is concerned, look no further than the pass completions in the first half compared to the second.


The Fighting Sioux will come out with a balanced offensive attack featuring runningback Mitch Sutton. The three interior linemen are returning starters, so there is confidence up front. The entire unit averages 300 pounds, and stands 6-4 to 6-8. Suffice it to say that there is plenty of size in this offensive line. The 6-0, 218 pound Sutton will have a 5-10, 228 pound fullback (Catlin Solum) or a 6-1, 239 Ethan Magstadt leading the way. Yes, this is a power running game. The tightends, Seth Wisthoff and Seth Nichols are 6-4, 266 and 6-5 229 respectively. For a change of pace back, speedster Jake Miller will come in to spell Sutton.

The passing attack features sophomore quarterback Joey Bradley. The 6-1, 170 pounder will spread the ball around with receivers Greg Hardin, Chris Anderson and R.J. McGill seeing the bulk of the passes. Expect the backs to see the ball as well. The offense isn't made for the quick strike. It's ball control, power offense with quick slants and quick outs to keep the defense honest.

The defense lines up in a 3-4, featuring speed and size at linebacker. Across the front three, left end Broc Bellmore (6-1,270), noseguard Devin Benjamin (6-3, 303) and right end Ross Brennemen (6-4, 266) have only one veteran backing them up, but there will be a rotation. Weak outside linebacker Cordero Finley (6-1, 225), weak inside linebacker Dan Hendrickson (6-0, 233), strong inside linebacker Mitch Goertz (6-2, 234) and strong outside linebacker Damon Andrews (6-4, 230) all possess size and speed. Both inside backers are savvy veterans and are the heart of the defense. Hendrickson leads the team in tackles.

The defensive backfield is filled with seniors, excluding redshirt freshman at right cornerback Daryl Brown. Seniors Kenny Watkins at left corner and safeties Justin Belotti and Dominique Hawkins give the secondary plenty of experience. Brown grabbed himself an INT in last week's game while Watkins and Belotti garnered some solid tackle numbers. The Fighting Sioux defense is filled with experience on all levels, but depth could be an issue. Judging from last week's performance, this defense is good.


Vandal fans might be looking at this game as exactly what the doctor ordered, but it's anything but that. This Fighting Sioux team is different than last year's. They come into the Dome with a win under their belts and veteran leadership in some key areas. North Dakota is no push over, and the Vandals will need to fix a multitude of problems if they want to win this game.

That's where Vandal fans need to show their support in the form of butts in seats, filling the Dome with Silver and Gold. It's a gut check for all; coaches, players and fans alike. It's this week that defines Vandals, not last week. It's how we respond. It's how we bounce back and show our Vandal pride. We can let last week affect this week, or we can approach this game with the same passion we have for all things University of Idaho.

Go Vandals!

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