|LAST WEEK: By the time the Beavers and Vandals kickoff Saturday evening it will have been two full weeks since Oregon State has played an opponent. The last time the Beavers hit the field was on Sept.7 on the blue turf in Boise. OSU started out quick scoring the first 14 points of the game, but then the Broncos adjusted on both sides of the ball controlling both lines of scrimmages and scoring 42 unanswered points. The bye week let the Beavers recover mentally and physically as CB Brandon Hughes (knee) is returning to the lineup for the first time this season while OG Jeremy Perry had knee surgery and is also expected to play. The players are anxious to get another "W" under their belts and many members are viewing the Sept. 23 game as a chance to start over.||
LAST WEEK: In week one the Vandals traveled to East Lansing to take on the Michigan State Spartans in the season opener for both schools. The Vandals fought hard and lost 27-17 in a game that was much closer than anticipated. Idaho ran well, passed decent, had just one penalty, and few missed tackles defensively. Then, in week two, the wheels fell off against a Washington State team that was clobbered by Auburn in week one. Idaho lost 56-10 in a route. Very little went right for Idaho. Then last weekend Idaho hosted 1-AA Idaho State. The game was a microcosm of the first two weeks: lots of really good sandwiched around some really bad. Idaho won 27-24, but twice the Vandals had chances to slam the door on ISU, and twice they not only failed to score, but gave up scoring drives to keep it close. With the hiring of Dennis Erickson last February came a new offense - and new attitude - and this is a team that is still in transition.
|WHEN OREGON STATE IS ON OFFENSE: With eight starters returning on offense the Beavers were supposed to be unstoppable, and they were against Eastern Washington, but not versus Boise State. Through two games OSU ranks eighth in the Pac-10 in rushing and total offense and seventh in passing offense. QB Matt Moore barely played against the Eagles in a blowout and never looked comfortable after throwing a game changing interception in the first half against BSU. He has completed 19 of 31 attempts for 203 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Many fans are clamoring for redshirt freshman Sean Canfield who was completed 19 of 26 for 240 yards, two touchdowns and one interception at times when both games were well in hand. The offensive line is the second most experienced in the nation with over 110 combined starts by were dominated on the blue turf. LG Jeremy Perry is a beast at left guard, but could be slowed while recovering from knee surgery. Also, keep an eye on center Kyle DeVan who is a master at pulling and leading the way down the field. RB Yvenson Bernard is an all world back who can run, catch and pass. He has 222 yards on 43 carries and two touchdowns and is the team's third leading receiver with six catches for 28 yards. TE Joe Newton is one of the best in the country as he knows how to use his big 6-7 frame. He has eight receptions on the year, with three of them going for touchdowns. Split end Sammie Stroughter is the team's co-leading receiver with eight catches for 102 yards. The underutilized junior Anthony Wheat-Brown (3 for 55/1 TD) mans the flanker spot while Brandon Powers (5 for 59) sets up in the slot. WR Ruben Jackson is one of the first off of the bench and is used in reverses.||WHEN IDAHO IS ON OFFENSE: Erickson threatened to open the offense up a bit last week and he delivered as Idaho eclipsed 400 yards total offense for the first time all season. Senior signal caller Steve Wichman, a JC Gridwire All-American who joined the team last fall and immediately assumed starting duties, went 19 of 29 for 266 yards and one pick. No TDs, but he completed several passes over 35 yards to put Idaho in position to score. On the ground Idaho worked junior speedster Brian Flowers (another JC Gridwire All-American) in at tailback where he split time with sophomore power runner Jayson Bird (6-0, 220). Flowers gained 91 yards on 14 carries with a TD, while Bird banged out 55 yards on 14 carries. Idaho amassed 161 yards rushing and scored 3 TDs on the ground. The running game has been both hot and cold this year behind a line featuring four returning starters from last year. Seniors Nate VanderPol and Jade Tadvick anchor the left side. The passing game, on the other hand, is still looking to take flight. Two new wide receivers, Marlon Haynes and Tariq Ikharo, joined the program in August and have emerged as reliable targets, joining flanker Wendell Octave. Look for Wichman to distribute the ball generously to WRs and TEs. Erickson made his name with tremendous passing games, so expect Idaho to take their shots down field.|
|WHEN IDAHO HAS THE BALL: There was a lot of soul searching during the off-season for the orange and black defense and that soul searching continues into the season. The defense was manhandled at all positions against Boise State as RB Ian Johnson racked up 240 yards while dragging and pummeling OSU players all over the field. The most experience is on the line where Ben Siegert and Curtis Coker man the tackle positions. Siegert is underachieving at this point managing just one tackle in two contests and not affecting the flow of the game. Coker has just four tackles, but was constantly in the Bronco backfield forcing them to send two lineman his way. The ends are manned by senior Joe Lemma (5 tackles/2 sacks) and junior Jeff Van Orsow (6 tackls/3 sacks) who have both struggled to get to the quarterback against quality opponents. Junior college transfer Dorian Smith is in the mix and coming on strong. The secondary is led by Bronko Nagurski candidate strong safety Sabby Piscitelli, who has the team's only interception. Lining up next to him is sophomore Al Afalava who has a growing reputation as a hard hitter. Junior Coye Francies has started in Brandon Hughes place the first two games and has had his ups and downs. The best corner on the team is sophomore Keenan Lewis who is developing into a lockdown corner. SLB Derrick Dogget leads the team in tackles with 15 stops, including 13 against BSU. Junior Alan Darlin mans the middle and is second on the team with 11 tackles, including two for loss. Junior Joey LaRocque has seven starts and has been quiet after transferring from junior college.||WHEN OREGON STATE HAS THE BALL: Two years ago Idaho led the nation by fielding a whopping 17 true freshmen, and that youth is beginning to pay off now. The catalyst for the Vandal D is junior WILL David Vobora, an Oregon native. David joined the program as a true freshman in 2004 and played immediately. A little undersized then, he's now 6-1 and a solid 225 with good speed, great instincts, and is a tough competitor. He leads the WAC in tackles with 40 on the year already. The linebacker corps is Idaho's strength, with veterans Josh Bousman starting at SAM and Jaron Williams starting at MIKE. The unit added former JC Gridwire All-American Joartis Ratti this off-season and he saw his first action against ISU. Expect to see lots of him at the MIKE position Saturday, as well as junior Brandon Ogletree at SAM. Up front is where the Vandals are probably the most vulnerable. The interior DL will be manned by a steady rotation of Siua Musika, Ryan Davis, Marvin Jones, Alex Toailoa, and Jon Dominguez. Idaho uses all five generously. The ends are small by Pac-10 standards but have good speed. At strongside end is true sophomore Josh Shaw (6-2, 253) backed up by junior George Fa'avae (6-2, 255). Off the weakside is true junior Ben Alexander (6-1, 235) and Charles Campbell (6-3, 235). The unit has just one sack on the season, and like the rest of the team has had a mixed bag of good and bad this season. One group that has had a surprisingly solid start to the '06 season is the defensive backfield. Cornerback has been a strength with Stanley Franks, Reggie Jones, and Kiel McDonald getting most of the reps. If Jones is unable to play Saturday, McDonald will start in his place. Last weekend Franks picked off two ISU passes. The safeties are a combo of youth (true freshman Shiloh Keo at SS) and veteran leadership (Tone Taupule at FS). The group has been steady and productive this year.|
|SPECIAL TEAMS: A little bit and good and a little bit of bad. The punt return game has been outstanding as Sammie Stroughter already has two touchdowns on the season and leads the NCAA with a 31.4 return average. Freshman Kyle Loomis is still learning his position and shanks at least one a game, but is getting better. He is currently averaging 32.7 yards per kick, last in the Pac-10. PK Alexis Serna, the 2004 Lou Groza winner, missed his first two field goals of the season and going back to last year has missed his last 5 of 7. Coye Francies has shown excellent potential in kickoff returns averaging 29.7 yards per return.||SPECIAL TEAMS: The Vandals took a huge blow this off-season when First Team All-WAC placekicker Mike Barrow was lost for the year just weeks before the season started. Walkon sophomore Tino Amancio has stepped into his place and played remarkably well, which began when he converted a 49-yarder in his first Division-1 kick against Michigan State. On the year he's connected on 80% of his attempts (4 of 5). Kick returner Stanley Franks has explosive speed and has been solid this season, while true sophomore Wesley Williams, a sprinter on the Idaho track team, has not yet had a chance to stretch his legs.|
|OREGON STATE CAN WIN IF: They control both lines of scrimmage. The Beavers are bigger and faster and Matt Moore should have all day to find an open receiver. The offensive line should also be able to open up holes for Yvenson Bernard to run for 150 yards and at least two touchdowns. Defensively, the lineman must play within the system engaging the offensive lineman and allowing the linebackers to make plays. Forcing Idaho into early mistakes is a must to knock out any thoughts of an upset.||IDAHO CAN WIN IF: It plays the perfect game and gets some breaks. Let's be realistic - Idaho has been a member of the WAC for just one year, and it's going to take awhile to recruit enough talent to compete week-in and week-out with better 1-A teams. If the Vandals do everything right – no fumbles, no picks, no stupid penalties, no drops, no missed tackles, no blown coverages…you get the picture – they should be able to give OSU a ballgame. Idaho has a solid running back rotation, the quarterback has good arm strength and accuracy, and threats at receiver are beginning to emerge. If the offensive line plays to its potential and mistakes are held to a minimum, Idaho should be able to keep it interesting.|
|OREGON STATE WILL LOSE IF: The Beavers don't jump on the Vandals early. The longer Idaho stays in the game, the more they believe that they can pull off the upset. Plus, the Beavers know they should blowout UI and if the offense struggles, it could lead to frustration on the sidelines and in the stands.||IDAHO WILL LOSE IF: The team that showed up in Pullman shows up in Corvallis. Coming on the heels of Idaho's strong showing at Michigan State, most Vandal fans thought the team had gotten past its ability to self-destruct. Obviously, this ol' dawg ain't learning any new tricks anytime soon. At Washington State Idaho was in the game midway through the second quarter, had a chance to draw within 10 points with four attempts to punch it in from the WSU two yard line, failed, and immediately began going through the motions. In a crazy way, it may have been a blessing in disguise. Erickson certainly won't tolerate that mindset, and made that clear after the game. The team had a nasty week of practice and came out swinging against Idaho State last weekend. We'll find out if the team has adopted that mindset when they travel to Corvallis, where they're sure to be tested early and often.|
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|Dan Norz is the publisher of BeaverFootball.com and he begs you to where orange to home and away games.||Pat Hauge is the senior editor of VandalVenue.com - The #1 E-Magazine Covering Vandal Sports.|
Vandals and Beavers meet in evening clash
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