VANDAL GAMEDAY: Idaho at SJSU
San Jose State has won all four games with Idaho since the Vandals joined the WAC in 2005. The Vandals are looking to continue its season of payback when they enter Spartan Stadium on Saturday.
The series between the Vandals and Spartans started in 1946, and San Jose State currently leads the all-time series 12-7-1. Coach Dick Tomey is a coaching legend with a resume a mile long. He's been a collegiate head coach a total of 28 years. His first year with the Spartans was in 2005 so obviously he has never lost to the Vandals. San Jose State is coming off a much needed bye week, as they opened against USC, hosted Utah, and then played at Stanford. Their only non-conference win came in week 4 against Cal Poly, so the Spartans have a little momentum of their own coming into this game. They will be well rested and battle tested. Coach Tomey will have his Spartans ready for conference play.
When the Vandals have the ball...
Vandal quarterback Nate Enderle has transformed into quite the signal caller, quite the leader. Enderle was thrown into the starting role two years ago and had to grow up in front of the fans. His experience is now paying huge dividends for Idaho and Vandal fans alike. He's on fire. His arm is big, and he's dialed in on his short game, throwing tight spirals all over the field. And last week's game showcased his long ball touch, connecting for a 45 yard touchdown, a 24 yard score, and a 39 yard score.
Not a bad day.
The Vandals were without star H-Back Daniel Hardy, and may still be without him this Saturday. But Enderle has always spread the ball around, and there's more than one receiving threat on this team. Max Komar already has 408 yards on the young season. At 5'10, 202 pounds, Komar is the Vandals number one receiving threat. The senior is fast, runs precise routes and is very good after the catch. Complimenting Komar is 6-6, 213 pound junior Eric Greenwood, who had his coming out party against Colorado State. He showed good speed running under a long Enderle throw, and finally gave Vandal fans what they wanted; a highlight grab over a defensive back in the corner of the endzone. But Enderle takes what he is given, so it's anyone's guess who will emerge as the go to guy.
The Vandal offensive line is, at times, dominating the line of scrimmage, plowing the way for the runningbacks and providing excellent protection for the passing game. But there is room for improvement, as Enderle was sacked 3 times in last week's game. Led by 6-6, 330-pound senior guard Mike Iupati, this group can downright own a series.
In contrast, the Spartans D-Line has been bitten by the injury bug, and has struggled to field a full unit. They will get a huge boost with the return of two defensive linemen. Defensive end Justin Willis and defensive tackle Joe Nigos will suit up. Defensive end Mohamed Marah is gone for the year, while defensive tackle Kalvin Cressel is not expected back from his injury.
Overall, the SJSU defense has seven starters returning, and as everyone knows the Spartan Defense has been very good the last few years. They have a new playmaker in Tanner Burns. The safety had a team-high 11 tackles, an interception returned 30 yards and a fumble recovery. Hybrid linebacker Justin Cole is another bright spot on defense. His 6'3 240 pound presence has been felt in every game. And Vandals fans should remember the name Ihenacho, as the two brothers are returning from last year, and have made an impact in games against Idaho. But for some reason the Spartans have been porous this year. After four games the defense is 118th in the country in stopping the run and 114th in total defense, giving up 453.8 ypg. Considering Idaho's three headed monster in runningbacks Deonte Jackson, Princeton McCarty and DeMaundray Woolridge, this could be a long day for the Spartans if they don't become inspired. The Vandal backfield has rushed for 747 yards and eight touchdowns while catching 11 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. But again, the BYE week came at the right time for San Jose, and Tomey will have this group refocused and ready to play.
When the Spartans have the ball...
The Spartan offense is led by junior quarterback Jordan LaSecla, who beat out Kyle Reed after his performance against Utah. He was put in the game for a spark, and responded with 22-of-34 passing for 269 yards and one touchdown in the performance. They'll have runningback Brandon Rutley back from injury, giving them more options with Lamon Muldrow coming off a solid 184 yard game. LaSecla has two big targets in 6-4, 220 WR Jalal Beauchman and 6-0, 183 Kevin Jurovich, so the Vandals will have some size and speed to deal with in the passing game.
After facing one of the most formidable offensive lines in college football last week, the Vandals defense will look to pressure LaSecla. They couldn't get to the quarterback last week, but San Jose State doesn't have the horses that Colorado State puts on the field. The Vandal defense did muster some key stops, especially the 4th and 1 late, and the memorable two-point conversion stand. Shiloh Keo was the WAC Defensive Player of the week for good reason. He dominated the second half of the Colorado State game, coming up with the game saving stop and an interception to preserve the Vandal victory. Look for the rest of the defense to continue their emergence. Defensive linemen Jonah Sataraka, Michael Cosgrove, Aaron Lavarias and Andre Ferguson should pick up where they left off after the Northern Illinois game. The Spartans O-Line isn't as big or as veteran as what they faced last Saturday, so it could be a game that the defense continues to make plays.
Like every game left on the schedule for the Vandals, this one is huge. It's a conference game against a team they have never beaten since joining the WAC. Vandal fans can take comfort in the fact that this team is trying to make a statement to everyone; the WAC, the fans, and the college football world. Always the underdog, the Vandals should be able to harness the momentum of the last couple of weeks and finally topple Spartan Stadium. But it won't be easy. Coach Tomey will have his Spartans ready for this game, and the Vandals have been nothing short of a cardiac team in their wins. Look for this to be another close game between these teams.
This is a very hungry Spartan team. And the Vandals still have some growing to do before any game is a gimme. But this team is different. It knows how to win. Vandal fans should have a good feeling about this game, and come Saturday night, they could finally notch a long awaited win against the San Jose State Spartans.
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