GAME DAY: Vandals host Hawaii

THE UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO VANDALS are still looking for their first conference win in what has turned out to be a season of disappointment. Coming off a bye, Idaho hosts the Hawaii Warriors on Saturday (2pm PST kickoff), a team that entered the season as a favorite to win the WAC. Coming off a win over New Mexico State, the Warriors enter the game with a 2-1 WAC record while Idaho stands at 0-3.

Idaho's offensive woes continue to plague the team, while on the flipside Hawaii's offense continues to roll up the yards. The Vandals will need to play a flawless game if they plan on winning. As any Vandal fan can tell you, the likelihood of that is slim to none.

But as any football fan can tell you, there is a reason they play the games.

Hawaii leads the series 9-2. The Warriors won the last meeting 45-10 in its homecoming game last season. A year earlier, the Vandals snapped the Warriors' seven-game stranglehold of the series with a 35-23 victory in Moscow. Since the Vandals joined the WAC in 2004, UH has a 6-1 advantage including a 2-1 record in Moscow. With all of this stacked against the Vandals, Coach Robb Akey feels his team just hasn't turned the corner on their abilities. He believes they're close to doing so, and when it happens the Vandals will win.

The Vandals QB play has to improve. Brian Reader went 22-of-35 for 167 yards and one interception against NMSU. That was an improvement from his previous games, but it still isn't the performance that the offense needs. The other positive from Idaho's last game was Princeton McCarty. With a heavy dose of run, McCarty pulled off a 116 yard day on 25 carries. This says more about the philosophy behind the offense, and given the passing game's ineffectiveness, one could say that it is, indeed, headed in the right direction. Michael Scott is the one constant in the offense. He leads the Vandals in receiving with 511 yards, and has always come up big for the offense.

The second thing the Vandals need to address is a strong start on defense. The one thing that seems to happen in every game is a lack of defensive discipline that leads to early scoring against Idaho. This, of course, puts Idaho in a hole, and considering the rarity of an Idaho offensive score, it's another variable in the mounting losses. But the defense has a swagger. The bye week was a welcome break, allowing the unit to get fresh, as well as allow the healing of some of the major players on the line: defensive tackle Michael Cosgrove and defensive end Benson Mayowa. The linebacker play continues to be a positive, with Conrad Scheidt grabbing the spotlight in their last contest with 12 tackles. The junior is coming into his own with his hard-nosed play. Safety Gary Walker is the defensive mainstay, climbing his way up the tackling chart weekly.

The Warriors have one of the best offensive weapons in college football in senior QB Bryan Moniz. The 6-foot, 205 pounder is a dual threat. He's as effective running the ball as he is throwing it. Moniz ranks seventh nationally in total offense (342.4) and eighth in passing yards per game (306.4). Aside from Moniz's own running game, the Warriors have running back Joey Iosefa who has rushed for 270 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games. He's a perfect compliment for the elusive Moniz. At 6-foot, 240 pounds, Iosefa is a load to bring down. The favorite offensive weapon through the air is senior Royce Pollard. Pollard's senior campaign has been one for the books, as he leads all receivers with 683 yards on the season, while also leading the team in scoring.

Warrior Offensive Line – LT Clayton Laurel (6-2, 310 Sr.), LG Brett Leonard (6-5, 310 Sr.), Center London Sapolu (6-0, 290 Sr.), RG Dave Lefotu (6-3 305 Fr.) RT Levi Legay (6-3, 285 Jr)

The Warrior defense is led by senior linebacker Corey Paredes. Paredes is a First Team All-Conference player with a nose for the ball. Fellow linebacker Art Laurel is a star on the rise. He has at least one sack in each of the past five games and leads the team with seven this season. The Warriors rank third nationally with 26 sacks, and 16th in turnovers forced with 16 on the year. Needless to say, the Vandal offensive line has a tall order coming up. The Warrior defensive front is very good.

Warrior Defensive Line - LE Zach Masch (6-2, 285 Sr.), LT Vaughn Meatoga (6-2, 295 Sr.) RT Kaniela Tuipulotu (6-2, 300 Sr.) RE Paipai Falemalu (6-3, 245 Jr.)

If it's one thing every Vandal fan can take from the book of Head Coach Robb Akey, it's loyalty. In a season that has been a complete letdown for the silver and gold, Akey has been a man of his word, showing integrity and his usual grit. He has never stopped championing the Vandals, regardless of the criticism and negativity. Closing practice to keep these things out shows he hasn't given up.

Neither should Vandal fans.

It's time to fill the Dome and show the football team that loyalty doesn't stop and start with Coach Akey. We Vandals win together and lose together. But whatever the case, we stick together. There has never been a more important time to head towards Moscow and join the Tribe From the North in a gathering of Vandal pride. It's time to show the football team our loyalty.


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