Vandal Game Day: Idaho vs Utah State

Today the Vandals continue their road-swing through the west as they take on <b>Ronald Tupea</b> and the Utah State Aggies in Logan, Utah. Kick-off is at 5:30pm PST, as both programs come into this game 0-1 and looking at this game as a turning point for the season.<br> <br> In this issue we take a very quick look at the Aggie team. We also have a photo gallery of images from the BSU game from last Saturday shot by our own Larry Johnson.<br> <br>

For a more complete look at the Aggie football team, network affiliate put together a solid preview of their 2004 football team. To view their article, click on the link below:

UTAH STATE PREVIEW: Analysis and Insight

For more information on the Vandals, click the links below:


LINK: Depth Chart

The series between these 2 schools, which dates back to 1916 (an Idaho victory, 27-15) is tied at 14 games apiece (14-14-2). Idaho beat the Aggies last year in the season finale in Moscow, coming from behind at the half to post a 20-13 victory. In the game Idaho gained 143 yards on the ground, threw for 250 yards, and Mike Barrow was perfect on field goal attempts of 19 and 35 yards. The one category the Aggies led Idaho in was passing yards, as Travis Cox connected on 30 of 45 attempts for 322 yards. Utah State ended the year 3-9, just like Idaho, with wins over UL-Monroe, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee State.

Just as with Idaho, USU was invited to join the Western Athletic Conference in all sports starting in 2005, albeit they received their invitation months in advance of Idaho. Both anxiously looked forward to the invitation, and both programs look forward to rejoining long-time foes in a western regional conference.

But first, 2004 and finishing out our chapter with the Sun Belt Conference. This game means everything to both programs in terms of Conference race, and it is a bit of a foregone conclusion that the team that loses this game will have difficulty making any serious noise in the Conference race.

But that is where the similarities between the 2 programs really stops. For many fans in Logan, this game is a litmus test for head coach Mick Dennehy, who's teams have struggled as the program has dealt with a couple years of independence, and a couple years in the Sun Belt Conference. Some are saying that a loss here really puts the clamps on Dennehy. Whether or not that is actually true remains to be seen, but the focus on this game, particularly in the USU media, is fairly well documented. Dennehy and his staff have been point at this game as a "must win" for the Ags, and we can expect them to come out guns a-blazin'.

For those making the journey to Romney Stadium, you'll notice some additions. In particular they've torn out the natural surface and replaced it with SprinTurf, a synthetic turf similar to FieldTurf. Its an excellent surface, and this is the innaugural game to be played on the home opener no less.

The team returns 6 starters on defense and 4 starters on O. Defensively, the Ags run a 3-4 (3 down linemen), and should be solid this year. They are led up front by senior DT Ronald Tupea. Tupea is the only returning starter, but the Ags' depth up front has improved and they should be formidable.

USU returns 3 of 4 linebacker starters from a year ago, including All Conference MLB Robert Watts. Its a rock solid unit that could be one of the SBC's best this season.

The defensive backfield includes last year's CFN 2nd Team Freshman All American free safety Terrance Washington. Athlon magazine describes the USU backfield as "heavy hitting", and Washington was a lot of the reason for that praise. He recorded 93 tackles and hauled in 5 picks in 2003. Cornerback Cornelius Lamb, a junior, is another returning starter on what should be a strong Aggie defensive backfield.

Overall, this unit doesn't have the team speed and strength of Idaho's first opponent, Boise State, but this is a formidable bunch that is expected to keep USU in most of their games this season.

Offensively the Aggies have a little more work to do to get back to their 2003 levels, or at least so it would seem. The offensive line must break in 3 new starters, but have a couple solid returners coming back in Elliott Tupea (6-2, 311, Sr, moving to center) and tackle Donald Penn (6-3, 313, Jr). Look for JC transfer Justin Schlimgen (6-2, 283) to man the other tackle, while the guards are handled by returning lettermen.

At QB is senior Travis Cox, an excellent QB he threw for 2,791 yards last season, completing 57% of his passes including 18 TDs and just 7 picks, leading the SBC in total offense.

The specialists around him are a slightly bigger concern, only because of the experience lost. The specialist struggled last week on the road in their loss to Alabama, 48-17. The top rusher, Chris Forbes (5-11, 185, True-Fr out of Miami, FL), accounted for 28 yards on 11 carries. Kevin Robinson (6-0, 188, True-Fr, Fresno, CA) led all receivers last week with 5 catches for 58 yards. Much like Idaho, this unit is going young, particularly among the specialists.

Overall, it will be interesting to see how both offenses do this week. Last week, against strong opponents, both young offenses struggled. This week the numbers for either team, or both teams, could jump significantly depending on how each team reacted to last week's setbacks. Both teams have young playmakers, and both have holes they are working to fill.

Should be an interesting one, to say the least, as both programs look to build on success in this game.


Although the game last weekend was a huge disappointment, photographer and writer Larry Johnson was working the sidelines and submitted a number of interesting shots. Click on the images below for a larger view.

True-freshman RB Jayson Bird finds a crease.

Jayson Bird turns the corner en-route to his 71 yard touchdown run.

Desmond Clark, OL
6-3, 300

Mike Barrow, K/P
5-11, 165

#7 Michael Harrington, QB
6-4, 204

#10 Brian Nooy, QB
6-0, 184
Nooy on a QB draw.

#32 Rollie Lumbala, RB
6-2, 227

#28 Justin Wall, RB
5-11, 190

#10 Brian Nooy, QB
6-3, 199
Sets up in the pocket.

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