Idaho is coming off its defensive performance of the season, as the much maligned Vandal D held Troy to just 16 points in a long-awaited road win last weekend. The Vandal offense, led by Austin Rehkow and his four field goals in this game, put up just enough points for the 19-16 win. What was impressive here was the come-back nature of the win.
UI had built a 16-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter and appeared to be in strong command of the game. Then that lead evaporated in the fourth quarter when the Trojans tied it up at 16 apiece with 8:07 left.
That was when the offense, led by Matt Linehan, drove 73 yards and churned five minutes off the clock to get into position for a chip shot field goal to retake the lead. From there the Vandal D held its ground enough to force Troy into a 32 yard field goal that clanked off the right upright to give UI it's first road win in four years.
Idaho's player celebration then ensued as the offense took the field in the victory formation to run out the clock.
This week Idaho has its sights set on putting together its first back-to-back win streak since 2009 as they host Louisiana-Monroe (1-5, 0-2 Sun Belt) for Homecoming. It is expected that UI will deploy both quarterbacks, Linehan and redshirt freshman Jake Luton, again like they did last week. However, the plan has to include punching in touchdowns rather than settling for field goals against the Warhawks. UL-M comes in after falling to SBC leading Appalachian State by a final 59-14 score. In the common opponents category, UL-M lost to Georgia Southern 51-31 while UI lost to them 44-20. Statistically the two teams are evenly matched: UL-M scores 21.7 points per game, UI 25.3; UL-M gives up 38.2 points per game, UI 41.8.
It will take a top effort by UI to come away with the win Saturday.
Senior wide receiver Dezmon Epps, the Sun Belt's top rated receiver, shocked the UI faithful by lining up in the Idaho defensive backfield against Troy. Offensively he put up 131 receiving yards. Defensively he was disruptive in his first FBS appearance on that side of the ball. The only question now is if he we see action this week defensively again. The Warhawks like to line up in 4 and 5 wide sets, so Idaho's defensive back field is likely to get a workout Saturday.
Back in the fold last week was senior nose guard Ryan Edwards, so it isn't too much of a coincidence that UI put up one of its best defensive performances as the same time. This week starting BUCK lineback Kevin Shelton may make a return Saturday. Idaho will need a strong performance from the defensive front if they hope to keep the UL-M offense out of rhythm.The linebacking crew will also have to be fluid Saturday. Senior Chris Edwards picked up his first sack against Troy, and first pick of the season against Arkansas State. His aggressive style (36 tackles on the season) and mobility (he started at safety for UI last fall) will be key this weekend. The steady development of freshman linebacker Kaden Elliss also can't be emphasized enough. He has played multiple positions for UI this fall, taking a crash-course in FBS competition, and could see his role in the defense increase Saturday.