VANDAL GAMEDAY: Idaho at Louisiana Tech

Saturday afternoon, in a game that will be carried on ESPN GamePlan (4pm PST kickoff), the Vandals travel to Ruston, Louisiana to take on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Joe Aillet Stadium. The Bulldogs carry a 2-3 season record onto the field, including a 22-14 season opening home victory over Mississippi State of the SEC. Will the Vandals build on their offensive punch last week at Fresno?

This Saturday the Vandals (1-6) will take on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (2-3), in a WAC showdown of the "beatens" as both are in search of their first conference win. The Bulldogs hold a 2-1 advantage over Idaho in the series. The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will play host to the Idaho Vandals in Joe Aillet Stadium and kickoff will commence at 4pm Pacific. Last week, the Vandals fell to Fresno State 45-32, but showcased some life against the formerly nationally-ranked Bulldogs.

Can the Vandals build on that performance?

Louisiana Tech's Offense

On the offensive side of the ball, Coach Dooley has changed things up, opting for Ross Jenkins, a 6-foot-3, 212 pound sophomore over Georgia Tech senior transfer Taylor Bennett. In his limited playing time this season, Jenkins is 4-for-12 for 15 yards and one interception. As a redshirt freshman last year, he threw just five passes. It should provide a spark to the offense, but it won't change the face of the offense too much.

Running back Patrick Jackson (5-10, 203, Sr.) has accounted half the rushes and for three of the team's five rushing touchdowns so far this season, but only has a 3.3 yards per carry. He has also caught a touchdown, showing versatility and play making ability. Daniel Porter (5-9, 190, Jr.) provides the other "punch" and leads the team in rushing. The receiving threat is Phillip Livas (5-8, 190, Sr.). He leads the Bulldogs in receiving with a 16.5 per catch average totaling 330 on the year. Fellow senior, Philip Beck (5-9, 190) will also see his fair share of passes thrown his way. The offensive line is filled with experienced youth, which could bode well for the Vandals defensive line.

Louisiana Tech's Defense

Senior linebacker Brannon Jackson is the star of the Bulldog defense. At 6-1, 265 pounds, he is an imposing run stuffer that has them ranked 3rd in the WAC in rushing defense. Surrounding him is senior Quin Harris (6-2, 235) at WILL and junior Brian White (6-1, 228) at SAM. The unit has garnered 5 sacks. Their defensive line is young but has depth for a quality rotation. The defensive backfield has veteran experience in all of its players. Free Safety Antonio Baker (5-11, 200, Jr.), Strong Safety Deon Young (5-11, 197, Jr.) partner up with senior corners Stevon Howze (5-9, 175) and Weldon Brown (5-10, 187) for a pass defense that has been hot and cold this season. Baker leads the Bulldog defense in tackles with 27 solo and 22 assists. La Tech's defensive unit hasn't been lighting the world on fire, yet they find their unit ahead of Idaho's in all categories. In terms of total defense, the squad has allowed 438.2 ypg. This has them eighth in the WAC and 110th in the nation entering play this weekend.

Vandals on O

Wow… Nathan Enderle (6-5, 223, SO) to Eddie Williams (6-2, 240, SR) seemed to take a while to get rolling last week. Enter Preston Davis (6-1, 194 Fr). Davis hauled in six balls for 77 yards and two scores. The Vandals haven't had a performance like this from a receiver in ages. Enderle was 22-of -39 for 237 yards and 3 touchdowns, showing the signs of maturity and poise Vandal fans have been looking for all year long. The offensive line also showed signs of how good they can be when they play to their potential, which not only gave Enderle time, but blew open holes for the trio of Vandal runningbacks. All in all, it was an effort Vandal fans haven't seen out of the offense in quite some time. It's hard for the Vandal Faithful not to be excited about this weekend after last week's performance.

Vandals on D

Well, Treshawn Robinson's (5-11, 240, Fr) debut as the starting MLB last weekend against Fresno State was stymied by a season ending injury suffered in the first half against the Bulldogs. But Jonathan Faraimo (5-11, 245, SO), Idaho's starting MLB all season who was moved to WILL last week to start alongside Robinson in a linebacker rotation shakeup, played a great game when he moved back to the middle when Robinson went down. The NEW news is on the defensive line front. Vandal fans need to pay close attention to the rotation. The defense will continue on with senior ends Taylor Rust (6-2, 232) and Josh Shaw (6-5, 253), and should expect a sack or two this weekend. It's the middle where Vandals will see a new face in the old rotation, adding size and a nasty demeanor. This will help keep starters Aaron Lavarias (6-2, 264, SO) and junior Oga Faumui (6-1, 299) fresh.

JC transfer Virdell Larkins (5-11, 190) continues to play strong in his safety spot. With a rookie quarterback leading LT Saturday, the defensive backs should garner at least one interception on the day. The Vandal defense continues to improve every week, but it is still a work in progress, and let's face it; Fresno State ran all over the defense last week. It should be interesting to see how the defense responds to the run in Ruston.

Once again, the Vandals actually showed improvement last week. The Vandals played the whole game, showing the heart and dedication Coach Akey has shown. Akey seems to focus on the positive week in and week out. Considering the first game of the season, and then last week's game; this philosophy seems to be working. This team could have given up. Vandal fans had to be thinking the once nationally ranked Fresno State Bulldogs would woodshed them. But they didn't. They fought to the bitter end… And I say bitter because of the questionable calls that seemed to plague the Vandals in the fourth quarter.

One can't help but be excited and optimistic about this weekend's matchup. Hell, the Vandals won last time they were in Ruston. If they can continue to provide great field position on returns, force a few more three and outs and build upon the play of the offense, this could really turn out to be a game in which the Vandals have a chance to win in the fourth quarter. This could be a WAC win on the Vandal horizon. The only thing left is for the Vandal faithful to put on their silver and gold and cheer for Coach Akey and the Vandal football team.

They haven't given up. Have you?

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