GAMEDAY: Back to the Pac Against Oregon State

This Saturday, in a game that will be aired LIVE on FOX Sports NW (7:22PM PST kickoff), Idaho heads to Corvallis to take on Oregon State. There are a lot of sub-plots to this game, and we take a quick look at the position-by-position matchups for Saturday's contest.

Reser Stadium is going to look a whole lot different compared to the stadium Idaho visited in the early '90s.
The Vandals travel to Reser Stadium in Corvallis (Ore.) to take on the Pac-10 Oregon State Beavers this Saturday in a game that will be regionally televised live on FOX Sports NW (7:22 pm PST kickoff). The game closes out a brutal non-conference schedule that has included two Pac-10 teams (Washington State is 2-1, Oregon State is 1-1) and a Big Ten opponent (Michigan State is currently 3-0). Once again they find themselves visiting a team that is coming off a lop-sided loss and hungry to get back on the winning side of the ledger (OSU was blown out by BSU 42-14 in Boise, and are coming off a bye-week to regroup). The Beavers have had two weeks to prepare, and two weeks to think about that loss. They'll be ready to play. It can't be stressed enough that if the Vandals want to win this game, they need to play mistake-free football. No turnovers. They need to sustain long drives and chew up the clock. Coach Dennis Erickson will have his guys ready, with the intention of going into Corvalis to steal one. Who knows what Erickson has up his sleeve? Can the Vandals rise to the occasion and knock off the Beavers in their stadium?

Beaver's Offense

6-4, 193, Senior.
Senior Quarterback and returning starter Matt Moore (6-4, 193) will be behind center. Moore is accurate; his only knock are his interceptions. His most familiar target is slot receiver Anthony Wheat-Brown (6-1, 223, Jr.) who finished second on the team in receptions last year. Flanker Ruben Jackson (5-11, 200, Sr.) and Split End Sammie Stroughter (6-0, 183, Jr.) round out the starting lineup. Jackson is a legitimate deep threat. He's one of the team's best athletes who has great speed and can stretch the field.

Idaho cornerback Stanley Franks (5-11, 167, Jr.) is really starting to come into his own. The JUCO transfer grabbed two interceptions in last week's game, and continues to play at a higher level each week. Reggie Jones (5-10, 201, Jr.) may be back after sitting out the last game with an injury; his leadership was missed. His replacement, Kiel McDonald (5-10, 190, sr), played well in his absence and shut down his opponent. Safeties Tone Taupule (6-1, 205, Sr.) and Shilo Keo (5-10, 175, Fr.) showed improvement last week, and never fail to play physical.

Beaver runningback Yvenson Bernard (5-9, 202, Jr.) is one of the Pac-10's best ‘backs. He has speed and a knack for catching the ball out of the backfield and he has the ability to take over a game. JUCO transfer Clinton Polk (6-2, 220, Jr.) could also see some time, giving Bernard a breather. He too has excellent quickness and hands, but brings a much bigger load. Both are very capable ‘backs, and will need to be a focal point for the Idaho defense as they will likely try to force Moore to beat them with his arm.

David Vobora (6-1, 221, Jr.), Josh Bousman (6-2, 228, Jr.), Jaron Williams (6-1, 227, Sr.), Robert Davis (6-4, 223), Brandon Ogletree (6-3, 224), and Joartis Rotti (6-1, 220, Jr.) comprise a linebacker unit for Idaho which may be the deepest linebacking corps, top-to-bottom, in Idaho's history. This group is athletic, physical and talented. If they show up focused, they should have the talent to slow down the Beaver rushing attack.

Beaver runningback Yvenson Bernard taking it to the house against Eastern Washington (#62 Jeremy Perry, 6-2, 313, guard in background).

Down in the Trenches

Oregon State has one of the Pac-10's most experienced lines with all five starters returning, and veteran depth in the reserves. Guard Roy Schuening (6-4, 315, Jr.) is outstanding and has Sunday potential. Sophomore guard Jeremy Perry (6-2, 313), senior tackle Adam Koets (6-6, 299), senior tackle Josh Linehan (6-5, 315) and junior center Kyle DeVan (6-2, 296) make up the most veteran and talented line the Vandals have faced so far this season...which is a significant statement given the lines they have faced already. The offensive line is Oregon State's strength.

Idaho's D-Line must improve its pressure. Ryan Davis (6-0, 267, Sr), Siua Musika (6-1, 293, Jr.), Marvin Jones (6-2, 301, RS-Fr) Jon Dominguez (6-3, 252, Jr) and Alex Toailoa (6-1, 299, So) all have the task of clogging the middle, but must improve on penetration. Not an easy assignment considering OSU's veteran line. Youngsters Jones and Toailoa are getting a ton of reps, which should pay off in the weeks and years ahead. Defensive ends Ben Alexander (6-1, 235, Jr.), Charles Campbell (6-3, 228, Sr.), Josh Shaw (6-2, 254, so) and George Fa'avae (6-2, 258, Jr.) need to continue finding ways to create more pressure, produce a turnover, and get a sack. The D-Line can't let Moore sit in the pocket and pick away because he will carve-up the Vandals if given time to pick and choose. Alexander suffered a hip flexor, so he may be limited Saturday. Picking up the slack will be hard-hitting true freshman Steve Cameron (6-1, 220).

6-4, 266, Jr.
The Oregon State defensive front has experience and depth. Their tackles include returning starter Ben Siegert (6-4, 294, Sr.) and junior Curtis Coker (6-1, 307, Jr.), with the rotation of Pernell Booth (6-1, 309, So.) and William Akau'ola Vea (6-2, 288, Jr). Their defensive end rotation also returns starter Joe Lemma (6-3, 257, Sr), as well as returning starter Jeff Van Orsow (6-4, 267, Jr) on the opposite side. No trouble finding size here. Joe Rudulph (6-5, 256, Jr) and JUCO transfer Dorian Smith (6-3, 250, Jr) will rotate in, keeping the ends fresh.

The Vandal offensive line is holding up nicely. They're coming off an excellent game last weekend and an admirable performance in the season opener at Michigan State. Starters include sophomore center Adam Korby (6-3, 290, Rimington Trophy Watch List), senior left tackle Nate VanderPol (6-6, 306, 3-yr starter), senior left guard Jade Tadvick (6-5, 315, 3-yr starter), sophomore RT Kris Anderson (6-3, 299, started at RG last season). At right guard is a steady rotation between junior Marcis Fennell (6-2, 305) and redshirt freshman Adam Juratovac (6-4, 290). Fennell started the last two games, while Juratovac started in the opener at MSU. The running game has been solid in two of Idaho's first three games (MSU and ISU), while pass protection has been steady this fall. Equally important, the ‘backs have been better at finding the holes and making the right cuts.

Oregon State Beavers' D

The Oregon State Defense returns 7 starters, and considers the linebacking corps the strength of the unit. Juniors Derrick Doggett (6-3, 208), Alan Darlin (6-1, 257) and Joey LaRocque (6-4, 235) will start, having sophomores Dennis Christopher (6-1, 214), Jared Cornell (6-1, 245), Isaiah Cook (6-2, 216) rotating in. This is a big, physical group.

Sophomore Jayson Bird (6-1, 220) and junior speedster Brian Flowers (5-9, 190) are starting to roll. Bird provides power and speed, and will give the OSU linebackers the contact they seek. Flowers is starting to know his blocks and see the holes and is poised for a big day soon. Rolly Lumbala (6-2, 240) has also stepped up his play. This group has yet to see their potential, but has played well so far this season. Still waiting for a big touchdown run, but fans should be happy with their lack of fumbles and durability.

There is a youth movement in the Oregon State secondary, excluding the leader and best player on their defense, senior strong safety Sabby Piscitelli (6-3, 226). FS Al Afalava (5-11, 198), along with cornerbacks Brandon Hughes (5-11, 178) and Keenan Lewis (6-1, 191) are all sophomores. Their pass defense has improved this year, and with Piscitelli leading the group, the hitting should be plentiful.

Vandal quaterback Steve Wichman (6-3, 219) continues to steadily absorb the new offense Erickson and crew have installed, with his share of ups and downs this fall. It didn't help during the first two weeks when his receivers were dropping balls, but that is steadily improving as well. Last week Idaho receivers had their best game of the year collectively, and like so much of this team it's only a matter of time before the passing game explodes. Marlon Haynes (6-0, 185, jr) was solid in his debut as a starter at split end, while senior flanker Wendall Octave (6-1, 187) is showing he can be a dangerous weapon. Junior JC transfer Tariq Ikharo (6-4, 190, jr) earned his first start Saturday at slot and showed potential against Washington State. Lee Smith (5-8, 170, so), Max Komar (5-10, 185, RS-Fr), and DeAngelo Ramsey (6-2, 204, sr) will continue to rotate in at receiver. This unit has struggled at times, but there are signs of improvement that should leave Vandal fans optimistic. Luke Smith-Anderson (6-5, 253) sustained a knee injury and will miss a few weeks. There is little drop off with Keith Greer (6-2, 252) starting in his place, and it should be interesting to see the Vandals involve Greer more with the passing game.

Special Teams

Idaho punter TJ Conley has the leg to be a very good punter. He's been inconsistent, but he is also coming off an injury from last year. Tino Amancio has been a pleasant surprise as the kicking unit continues to improve. Amancio went 2 for 2 on field goals, and 3 for 3 on PATs. OSU's placekicker Alexis Serna (5-8, 162, Jr.) was the nation's #1 kicker last year, earning the Lou Groza Trophy and being picked a Second Team AP All-American. Ironically this could have been an interesting clash between Mike Barrow (First Team All-WAC in '05) and Serna. Punting duties are all on freshman Kyle Loomis (6-3, 185). Both programs are looking for better performances out of their punters.

It's All Vandal

Vandal Coach Dennis Erickson's most recent collegiate job was for the Beavers. In 1999, Erickson led OSU to a 7-5 finish; their first winning season in 28 years and their first bowl appearance since 1965. Overall he compiled a 31-17 record, including one season in which he led the Beavs to an 11-1 record, Pac-10 Championship, and Fiesta Bowl rout of Notre Dame and Top 5 national ranking. Beavers' Coach Mike Riley spent some of his childhood in Moscow (Ida.) while his dad was an assistant coach for formal Vandal Head Coach Dee Andros from 1962-1964. Andros (aka "The Great Pumpkin") was later head coach for the Beavers from 1965-1975.

The stadium that Erickson built.
This is an emotional game for Dennis Erickson, as he had great success at Oregon State, and the boosters and alumni hold him in high regard…much like Vandals fans do. The Vandal players should have picked up on this importance, and should come out fired up and ready to play hard for Erickson. This could be quite a battle, and if the Vandals play to their potential with no turnovers, they could surprise!

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