GAMEWEEK: Idaho vs. Western Michigan

Tomorrow afternoon the University of Idaho hosts Western Michigan University of the Mid-American Conference. WMU is expected to finish in the upper half of the MAC, and inside analyst Matt Dessert puts his slant on the matchup. REMINDER: Idaho will induct an army of Vandal athletes into the Idaho Athletics Hall of Fame, headlined by the 1998 Humanitarian Bowl Championship Team.


Vandal linebacker Chris Nofoaiga and the 1998 Vandal Humanitarian Bowl Championship team, plus dozens of legendary Vandal athletes in all sports will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Friday night, and will be honored between the 1st and 2nd quarters during the game Saturday.
I admit it. I went into seclusion after the Arizona debacle. Brutal. The aftermath has made me step forward with a new "type" of write up for our games. I knew Idaho would handle ISU, and handle them easily. But still, I was speechless from the Tuscon blues. And a week later, in my angst, I started second guessing the game plan for last week's game to try and erase that 70 point shellacking. But alas, the coaches proved smarter, and showcased the future the Vandals bring. Nate Enderle, Troy Vital, our Offensive line and super star Deonte Jackson are some very bright spots within the team. Jackson, if he stays healthy, will run wild in the WAC.

The beauty of being a Vandal is true silver and gold pride. This school, like Idaho State, is tucked away in beautiful Idaho and happens to focus on the student, offering the best education and college experience in Idaho. The "real" college experience for all of Idaho's ambitious high schoolers looking to run for Vice president one day. This will always breed pride in all who attend. A pride which is way beyond the blue...

What if you had to create a handle that had to demonstrate who you claim in athletics and who you claim in academics? Vandals have the luxury of one simple handle, hiding from nothing and claiming all things U of I. What if you had to create ZagVandal or Vandalco?

"Hi, I appreciate the football team, but I will let everyone know I attended Gonzaga, claim and pretend that I support the basketball team and let everyone know I have a law degree from Gonzaga to forgo the conclusion that my education comes from BSU. In essence, I agree the education is something I won't claim, but the Fiesta Bowl…"

Am I boring you yet? Well, I could start writing in the 3rd person.

Western Michigan Broncos; Winnable. The key is create turnovers.

Last week, Western Michigan faced a team familiar to the Vandal Nation, Northern Illinois; and the Broncos won, 29-26, providing their first conference victory (1-1, 1-0 MAC). Junior running back Brandon West rushed for a career-high 175 yards and junior quarterback Tim Hiller threw three touchdown passes to lead the Broncos in front of 26,262 fans. Senior wide receiver Jamarko Simmons had eight catches for 102 yards and one touchdown for the Broncos. I'm tired of listing of the offenses and defenses, so just know that the Broncos can score, and we know the young Vandals defense can be scored on.

This does not mean I'm not proud of our WAC players of the week, sophomores Isaac Butts (6-0, 171) and Eric Hunter (5-6, 160), both of whom are defensive players. I'm anxious to watch the U of I secondary keep competing as the talent is as deep as Idaho has had in many years. Butts had two interceptions which earned him the WAC defensive player of the week award, which ain't too shabby. I'm anxious to see the defensive line continue to pressure the quarterback into turnovers. Taylor Rust (6-2, 232) and Josh Shaw (6-5, 253) are on the brink, and it's only a matter of time before they register the sacks Vandal fans have been waiting for. No doubt, Idaho has the best safety in the WAC in Shiloh Keo. He brings it, and brings it hard.

Western Michigan Broncos; Winnable. The key is no turnovers.

On defense, senior linebacker Boston McCornell forced a fumble and senior safety Louis Delmas recovered at the NIU 33-yard line. Like Tom Brady to Mike Vrabel, Hiller found linebacker Austin Pritchard in the right flat for the one-yard touchdown. The point being, the Broncos have play makers on defense.

Nathan Enderle (6-5, 223) has shown improvement in delivering the ball. What he needs to work on now, is avoiding the sack. Some of this is an offensive line issue, missing assignments, but Enderle needs to be quicker in his decision to toss the ball out of bounds and avoid the loss of yardage.

On the positive side, nothing is more exciting than watching Enderle hit his favorite target, Eddie Williams (6-2, 240). Williams is a sure handed load that delivers hits more than he receives them. This is not a guy that defenders can arm tackle, and if you look hard enough, you just might see the opposing secondary purposefully miss.

While Vandals still await the emergence of someone, anyone out of the receivers, the running attack is solid with depth and diversity. This is not to slide Maurice Shaw (6-3, 192) out of his electrifying 78 yard touchdown, but that was one play. The Vandals have now seen all five of their runningbacks in action; Deonte Jackson ( 5-8, 191) and Corey White (5-8, 201) have similar styles. They can tear off chunks of ten yards in a hurry. The speedster of the group, Princeton McCarty (5-8, 171), showed his stuff last week with a nice, breaking off a 30 plus yarder, just missing the goal line. But probably the best surprise of the young season is Troy Vital (6-0, 207). If you can't see the potential in this kid, you don't know football.

Deonte Jackson is nothing less than spectacular. It's amazing to watch him work between the tackles. It's almost football sacrilege to compare anyone to Barry Sanders, but Deonte Jackson sure shows signs of the shifty Sanders. Life a surfer escaping the wave, Jackson's touchdown run last week was hard to believe as slipped through the arms of six defenders stretching the ball across the goal line in dramatic fashion, always one step ahead of the defenders.

Special Teams

Tino Amancio, Tino Amancio, wherefore art thou Tino Amancio?

While it's tough to criticize Special teams after having the WAC players of the week Eric Hunter block a punt and jumping on it for a touchdown, we still have work to do. Yes, T.J. Conley is a weapon, but Special teams have been everything but special. Kickoff needs better coverage, Punt needs better coverage and PAT needs to convert. Bottom line…

Well Vandal fans, there you have it. Go to the Dome and support your Vandals by screaming when Western Michigan has the ball. Let's face it. We have an advantage with the Dome because it can get extremely loud in there. It's our Vandal duty to make sure it is extremely loud in there. Get off your butts, and scream, and always remember; Go Vandals!

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