Spartan Stadium seats 75,000 fans.
Signifying their first meeting, the Vandals must be ecstatic to be playing in Spartan Stadium. The stadium boasts 75,005 seats, and their fans are excited for the season! What a thrill for the Vandals to be taking on Big Ten football. The energy and adrenaline will be running high for Vandals and Spartans alike in this opener. Both coaches will reach into their long history of coaching together to out-scheme one another. Michigan State returns 6 offensive starters and 7 defensive starters, and should be poised to make some noise in the Big Ten. The Spartans will be a veteran group, making this an even taller order for the Vandals.
RB Jehuu Caulcrick (6-0, 260)
Slowing Down The Spartan Offensive Juggernaut
QB Stanton among top QBs in America.
To be blunt, the Vandal defensive backfield will spend the afternoon working to contain one of the nation's best passing attacks. Cornerbacks Stanley Franks (5-11, 167, jr) and Reggie Jones (5-10, 201, jr) have Vandal fans excited about the possibilities of this speedy duo. The safeties, Tone Taupule (6-1, 205, sr) and Shiloh Keo (5-10, 175, fr) will be tested in the pass and run. Taupule started eight games last year as a free safety for Idaho, while Keo is a true freshman who has come in and impressed immediately and earned the starting nod. The size and experience of the Spartan receivers could be the Vandals stiffest challenge of the year if MSU's offense continues last year's success.
RB Javon Ringer
The 1-2 punch of Spartan tightends Kellen Davis (6-6, 255, 2tds) and Dwayne Holmes (6-0, 277, 3tds) will give the Vandal linebackers something to think about, especially near the goal line. Davis, a junior, started 4 games in '05 and saw action in every game while catching 15 balls for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He'll start. Holmes, a sophomore, saw action in every game and all three of his receptions resulted in a touchdown.
WR Matt Trannon (6-6, 235)
Vandal Offense versus Spartan Defense
LB Kaleb Thornhill, Junior.
Vandal fans are also excited about their own tightend 1-2 punch situation, as junior Luke Smith-Anderson (6-5, 253) shows promise to be one of the best in the WAC, and Keith Greer (6-2, 252) has been solid throughout his career.
Michigan State's defensive backfield includes junior SirDarean Adams (6-0, 230) who will be back as the Spartan's starting bandit. Starting all games in '05, he led the team in tackles-for-loss and interceptions, and is a sure tackler. Seniors Greg Cooper (5-11, 186) and Demond Williams (5-9, 174) will start at cornerback, but depth is a concern for the Spartans. JC All-American Nehemiah Warrick (6-1, 202) will enter the season starting at strong safety, while the free safety will be sophomore Otis Wiley (6-2, 209).
Idaho's senior quarterback Steve Wichman (2,746 yards, 15tds, 18 ints), another JC Gridwire All-American playing in this game, will have his first chance directing Dennis Erickson's offense in a game situation. Wichman has proven he has the arm, but he will be tasked with cutting back on the picks. Couple the relative newness of this offense with a receiving corps that has yet to have anyone emerge publicly as the "go-to" guy, and there are plenty of question marks for this opener.
Senior Wendell Octave (6-1, 187) has the most experience, and the Vandal faithful are counting on Octave to lead the group. But after that, there is an eclectic group of young and old talent. Vandal fans should see Lee Smith (5-8, 170, so), DeAngelo Ramsey (6-2, 204, sr), Max Komar (5-10, 185, rs-fr), Wesley Williams (5-10, 167, so), Matt Askew (6-4, 205, sr) and a few others will try and establish a passing game. Erickson will use this game to rotate the group and see whoe emerges as a reliable receiver. This battle could continue throughout the year.
Down in the Trenches
C Kyle Cook, Senior.
To battle the Spartans' offensive line, the Idaho defensive front will be anchored by defensive tackle Siua Musika (6-1, 293, Jr) and junior noseguard Jon Dominguez (6-3, 252), with redshirt freshman Marvin Jones (6-2, 301) and senior Ryan Davis (6-0, 267) expected to rotate in extensively during the game. At defensive end Idaho returns three of its top four from a year ago, including junior Ben Alexander (6-1, 235, started 9 games in 05 at rush end), senior Charles Campbell (6-3, 228, has played both ends), and talented true sophomore Josh Shaw (6-2, 254) starting at strongside defensive end. Shaw will be backed up by JC transfer George Fa'avae (6-2, 258), while redshirt sophomore Taylor Rust (6-3, 238) could see playing time as well.
DE/DT Cliff Ryan, Senior.
Idaho has the "luxury" of returning a group of exprienced starters on its offensive line and a full depth chart for the first time in years. Anchoring the left side of the line are a pair of seniors in left tackle Nate VanderPol (6-6, 306) and left guard Jade Tadvick (6-5, 315). Both have been starters at Idaho since their redshirt freshman season. At center is 11-game starter sophomore Adam Korby (6-3, 290), who was named this offseason to the Rimington Trophy Watch List. On the right side sophomore Kris Anderson (6-3, 299) started 9 games last year at guard, but moves to right tackle this season. Right guard will be manned by junior redshirt freshman Adam Juratovac (6-4, 290) or junior Marcis Fennell (6-2, 305) after a hard fought battle during spring and fall drills. Both are expected to see playing time Saturday, as is backup tackle Billy Bates (6-5, 275, soph).
MSU and UI both had similar struggles on Special Teams last year. Although Idaho's kicker was solid, he will miss the 06 season with an injury, leaving the field goal chores to JC transfer Tino Amancio. MSU recruit Brett Swensen has been impressive in Spring, and has won the place kicking job in blowout fashion. Both have never started for their respective teams.
Return duties for Idaho are not set in stone but Reggie Jones has seen the bulk of punt return duties and Max Komar has been in the kickoff return mix. The Spartans will have their runningback sensation Ringer return kickoffs and the experienced Terry Love (5-11, 177, jr) return punts.
Considering that both teams suffered from poor Special Teams play last year, pay close attention to how they respond Saturday. Coverage teams for both teams need to be aware of big play ability.
It's All Vandal
John L. Smith after MSU beat Notre Dame on the road last fall.
What are the keys to this game for Idaho? Coach Dennis Erickson needs to chew the clock up with methodical drives...shortening the game will be a priority. Idaho must establish a running game, open up the short passing game, and chew the game clock up. If successful, Michigan State may find itself in a game. Michigan State's offense will score, so clock management and the run game is the key for Idaho's success. The rest falls under the adage of "that's why we play the games."