Vandals Face Warriors on the Islands

This weekend Idaho (4-4, 3-1 WAC) travels to Hawaii to take on wide receiver IAN SAMPLE and the Warriors (5-2, 3-1 WAC) in famous Aloha Stadium. Last weekend the Vandals lost their first conference game of the season, while Hawaii beat New Mexico State in Las Cruces (Hawaii's only conference loss this season is to BSU). Inside is a look at how the teams match up.

The Idaho Vandals (4-4, 3-1), coming off their first conference loss of this season, are heading to the islands for the second game of what could be termed "the gauntlet" of their WAC schedule. The Hawaii Warriors (5-2, 3-1) lead the series 5-1, and boast the nation's most potent offensive attack. Head Coach June Jones has the Warriors playing his brand of football, and the Vandals will have to come in with solid defense and productive offense if they want to steal one in Aloha Stadium.

This game will be pivotal for Idaho's 2006 season. How will they respond to last week's loss? Hawaii is always tough at home and the island atmosphere can be distracting for visiting teams. This will be the most powerful offense that Idaho has faced this season. Idaho's defense must get some stops, and the Vandal offense must be prepared to execute.

Wide receiver IAN SAMPLE and the rest of the Warrior offense exploded against Fresno State at Fresno State earlier this season.

The Warrior Offense - #1 in the Nation!

QB Colt Brennan
Junior quaterback Colt Brennan (6-3, 196 Jr.) has the nation's most accurate arm. He can also use his feet to move the offense when necessary. To further the Warrior cause, they line up in four receiver sets; Jason Rivers (6-2, 192, Jr), Davone Bess (5-10, 195, So) Ross Dickerson (5-10, 198, Sr) and Ian Sample (5-10, 196, Sr). Bess leads the group in yards. He and Sample have recorded seven touchdowns each, while Dickerson and Rivers have five a piece. Needless to say, Brennan spreads the ball around. This doesn't even include the talented Ryan Grice-Mullen (6-1, 179, So), who will see the field after missing time with a sprained ankle. This is the most talented receiving corps in the WAC, as four of them are listed as conference leaders.

Mark number seven for Stanley Franks (5-11, 167, Jr.). In order for Franks to keep his interception streak going, he'll have to have his best game of the season. Reggie Jones (5-10, 201, Jr.) and Kiel McDonald (5-10, 190, sr) are expected to split time on the other side. That also goes for strong safety duo Chris Smith (5-9, 179, and Tone Taupule (6-1, 205, Sr.). Taupule brings a more physical player to the field, while Smith is faster. The tandem has done a nice job, but Smith may be needed more for this game because of the passing attack. Shiloh Keo (5-10, 175, Fr.) will be a player to watch. He's performed well so far this season, and is coming off one of his best games of the season last weekend. But the current theme is the ability of the Vandal secondary to shut down this explosive passing game.

RB Nate Ilaoa
Warrior runningback Nate Ilaoa (5-9, 254, Sr) is a load. "Nasty" Nate, as the fans call him, is a big, physical back with surprisingly quick feet. A ‘Bettis' type runner, Ilaoa is a legitimate run threat, and has soft hands when catching out of the backfield. He leads the Warriors in All-Purpose Yards, and will likely continue this trend on Saturday. Reagan Mauia (6-0, 296, Sr) is making it back from injury, and will also see time running the ball. All 296 pounds of him... Both backs pose problems for the Vandals because of their experience, size and power. These are some of the bigger backs running around in college football.

The Vandal linebacking corps, the heart of Idaho's defense, will again consist of David Vobora (6-1, 221, Jr), Josh Bousman (6-2, 228, Jr), Jaron Williams (6-1, 227, Sr), Robert Davis (6-4, 223, Sr), and Brandon Ogletree (6-3, 224, Jr). Jaron Williams will, once again, start in the middle for the Vandals. Williams played well for the Vandals last week but will need to raise his game, as he is in for some collisions on Saturday night. Brandon Ogletree and Josh Bousman will rotate, as both are play makers the Vandals have come to rely on. The question isn't if, but when one of them will cause a fumble, or drop someone for a loss. David Vobora is the leader of the Vandal defense, and he is a tackling machine. His game should be huge. Vobora has an excellent motor and great football instincts, which can surprise in the passing game. This group is in for quite a test, as the runningbacks are big and physical, and the passing game is outstanding. They'll have to hit hard and make a statement early. If they can shut down the running attack, it will allow them to open up the blitz package to put some pressure on Brennan.

Defensive lineman #91 Ikaika Alama-Francis (6-6, 285) pounces on a Fresno State fumble.

Down in the Trenches

Senior Right Tackle Dane Uperesa (6-4, 310) and freshman Right Guard John Estes (6-2, 290) along with Center Samson Satele (6-3, 298, Sr) Left Guard Hercules Satele(6-2, 288, Jr) and Left Tackle Tala Esera (6-4, 308, Sr) make up the powerful push up front for the Warriors. With three seniors, one junior and a freshman, the veteran leadership is there. Obviously it all begins with the offensive line, and considering their success, a lot can be said about the front five. Both tackles have good foot work and size protecting Brennan on the outside. But the most talented player is Satele. The former guard has moved to Center, bringing his physical play and leadership to that position. This offensive line will line up straight, and dare you to try and penetrate.

Ryan Davis (6-0, 267, Sr.) and Alex Toailoa (6-1, 299, so) will continue to rotate while Siua Musika (6-1, 293, Jr.) and Marvin Jones (6-2, 301, So.) do the same on their side, providing a good rotation in the middle. The improvement this group has shown week in and week out has been fantastic. They will need to clog the middle as much as possible, pushing the runningbacks outside so the linebackers can cut their runs short. 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.) know they will have ample opportunity to sack Brennan, as much as Hawaii likes to throw the ball. What should be interesting is the lack of a tightend on Hawaii's part, giving a shorter distance to the quarterback. It could be a big day for the defensive ends. This group has given plenty of pressure, but the mobility of Brennan could make him difficult to sack.

DE Melila Purcell (6-5, 276, Sr)
Once again, the Vandals confront three defensive linemen and four linebackers. Senior ends Melila Purcell (6-5, 276) and Ikaika Alama-Francis (6-6, 285) are veteran leaders who can cause havoc in the backfield. The centerpiece is nose tackle Michael Lafaele (6-0, 302, Jr). The Warriors use a heavy rotation, so expect to see Renolds Fruean (6-4, 276, Sr) rotate with Purcell, Lawrence Wilson (6-1,291, Sr) rotate with LaFaele, and the massive Keala Watson (6-3, 328, So) rotate with Francis. All have plenty of experience and can apply pressure and push. Watson has even started this year. This is "the" veteran group of the defense. The leaders… Purcell leads the group with 4 sacks.

Without a doubt, this game will be won and lost in the trenches. Left-side seniors Jade Tadvick (6-5, 315) and Nate VanderPol (6-6, 306) anchor the Vandal O-line and will have their hands full Saturday. Redshirt sophomore center Adam Korby (6-3, 290) will battle Hawaii's star noseguard. On the right-side sophomore tackle Kris Anderson (6-3, 299) will go into battle alongside a rotation of junior Marcis Fennell (6-2, 305) and redshirt freshman Adam Juratovac (6-4, 290), both of whom have seen significant playing time this fall. At times this unit looks as if they could move a mountain...the consistency just isn't there. Missed assignments and mental errors still pop up and kill drives, but that doesn't mean the O-line doesn't continue to improve with every game. They have… The main concern when blocking three linemen are the blitzing linebackers. Responsibilities are the key for success. Who to pick up and who not to… Backups Billy Bates (6-5, 270, So) and Mike Iupati (6-6, 330, So.) will be ready to rotate when needed. Bottom line: The line needs to pave the way for long, successful offensive drives, to keep the defense rested.

Warrior Defense

LB Blaze Soares (6-1, 224, Fr)
WILL Micah Lau (5-9, 218, Jr), BUCK Solomon Elimimian (6-0, 224, So), MAC Adam Leonard (6-0, 236, So), and STUD Brad Kalilimoku (5-10, 213, Jr) are the starting four for the Hawaii Warriors. There is a youth movement in Hawaii's linebackers. If you think the Vandals have depth at linebacker, look at Hawaii. C.J. Allen-Jones (6-1, 224, So), Brad Kalilimoku (5-10, 213, Jr), Blaze Soares (6-1, 224, Fr) and Karl Noa (6-4, 238, Jr) are all backups in their respective order, and all have seen playing time. MAC Adam Leonard has been awesome in his role, accounting for the team high in tackles, and being the main play maker of the linebackers. BUCK Elimimian has also been solid. They make the mistakes of a younger group, but they also hit hard and fly to the ball. Kalilimoku has 2 sacks on the season.

The Vandals may have Brian Flowers (5-9, 190, Jr.) back from an ankle injury. He played in the first half last week, before his ankle became too much to overcome. This week may be a same case scenario, and there is no denying the Vandals missed him in the second half last week. Look for Tracy Ford (5-8, 170, So) to fill-in for Flowers like last week. Sophomore bull Jayson Bird (6-1, 220) needs a chance to find his groove. He continues to be the Vandals best running option, but hasn't seen the carries that allow him to improve on his yardage. Last week he averaged 4.5 yards per carry, but only saw the ball about 11 times. Bird is the hammer of the Vandal offense, and can lead the way when a long drive is needed, which most likely will be the case on Saturday. Rolly Lumbala (6-2, 240) is an excellent short yardage option outside of Bird, and has been used as a short-yardage back and an H-Back this season.

Cornerbacks Mryon Newberry (5-8, 164, Jr) and Gerard Lewis (5-9, 168, Jr) each have an INT on the season, and have good closing speed to knock down passes. But the playmakers are in safeties Leonard Peters (6-1, 211, Sr) and Jacob Patek (6-0, 202, Jr). Peters is an outstanding safety. He brings the hat, and makes plays all over the field. He leads the team in INT's and is second in tackles. This group is veteran enough to shut down the passing game. Vandal receivers will need to hang onto the ball because the Warrior defensive backs can create turnovers.

Vandal QB Steve Wichman (6-3, 219) is coming off a good game. He's maturing into a heady quarterback, and his confidence in his receivers is becoming obvious, as he made some great throws. He continues to stand in the pocket and deliver the ball. He's limiting his mistakes, and seeing more of the field, which allows him to spread the ball around. Marlon Haynes (6-0, 185, jr) finally found the endzone, showing breakaway speed and catching for 96 yards. Wendell Octave (6-1, 187, sr) caught a touchdown and added 33 yards on four catches. Max Komar (5-10, 185, rs-fr) is injured, which means Tariq Ikharo (6-4, 190, jr) will start (he has seen significant playing time all season long). Tightend Luke Smith-Anderson (6-5, 253) had a breakout game against BSU, catching a touchdown pass and bringing in 68 yards receiving. Smith-Anderson's leadership is undeniable, and his physical style of play is exactly what the Vandals need. Eddie Williams (6-1, 249, So.) continues to back up Smith-Anderson while Keith Greer (6-2, 252) is expected to make his way back onto the field this week (has missed several weeks with a leg injury).

Special Teams

The special teams matchup to watch this week are the returners. Ross Dickerson is the WAC leader in kickoff returns. Considering the job the Vandal kickoff unit did last week, this will be a challenge. Tino Amancio has been solid in his field goal duties, but not so when kicking off. This could be one of the most important facets of this game. The Vandals are coming off a huge blocked punt on Special Teams, which should give the coaches the confidence to turn them loose.

It's All Vandal

Dennis Erickson does not like to lose. He has repeatedly said that. The Vandals played well in their loss, but also made costly mistakes, and Erickson has probably made his players aware of this. Most likely, he Vandals will show up ready to play. Considering the short period of time the offensive coaching staff has known these players, and the head coach has known this team, the progress at Idaho has been amazing this season.

In a short, while Erickson has instilled a fight in the Vandals the fans haven't seen for years, his team has played better each week and has shown no quit in their play. Even in last week's loss, the Vandals showed periods of dominance on offense and defense, including impressive defensive stands, long touchdown passes, etc. The Vandals are coming together and playing some solid and exciting football.

This is probably the most pivotal game of the season because the Vandals are playing on the road after an emotional game last weekend, and lining up against a very good football team on their turf. The Warriors play very well at home. If the Vandals steal this one, who knows what that win would do for their confidence.

Erickson and his team will go into Aloha Stadium ready to give Hawaii everything they can handle as the WAC landscape continues to unfold.

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