Here come the Vandals

OK, IT ISN'T the Apple Cup, but there is a lot more than nine-mile pride on the line when the Cougars and Vandals square off Saturday in the 85th renewal of the Battle of the Palouse.

No.11-ranked Washington State looks to break into the Top 10 in both in the Associated Press poll and BCS standings. And Idaho is just looking for progress --- any progress --- in a stretch that has seen them drop 11 of their last 12 games.

Headlining the tussle will be two fleet-footed quarterbacks who like to air it out and are coming off decent, but less than spectacular, openers. WSU Heisman Trophy candidate Jason Gesser completed 17-29 passes for 242 yards and a TD in last week's win over Nevada., while Vandal junior Brian Lindgren of Walla Walla pitched for 236 yards, one TD and two INTs in a 38-21 loss at Boise State. He also rushed for 93 yards.

Defense, though, is where the two clubs differ mightily. The Nevada Wolf Pack mustered but 282 yards against Washington State, while Boise State cruised for 503 yards in their win against Idaho.

That was the story-line last season when the Cougars racked 544 total yards and surrendered just 146 en route to a 36-7 victory over the Vandals.

GAME TIME: 2 p.m. PT, Martin Stadium

THE LINE: Cougars by 27

THE CROWD: Both sides look to bring "home team" atmosphere to Martin Stadium, so look for 35,000 to be on hand.

TV: FOX SportsNet Northwest will play the game on delay, check with your local cable operator for time.

THE RECORDS: No. 12 Cougars are 1-0. Vandals are 0-1.

THE EXPECTATIONS: The Vandals are looking to become the first team from the Sun Belt Conference to win a game this season. The Cougars are looking for a big showing that will propel them into the Top-10 and get Gesser onto the weekend's national TV highlights.

THE COACHES: Vandal head man Tom Cable is in his third season, 6-17. Mike Price can square up his WSU mark with the win. In his 14 years with Washington State, Price has a 74-75 record, 120-119 overall.

LOOK FOR: The Cougars were disappointed with their ground attack last week so will look to establish themselves on the ground early and often. The line needs to cut down on missed assignments and the backs need to hit holes quicker. The Cougars also will look to step up their third-down production, having converted just two of 12 chances against Nevada.

VANDALS TO WATCH: Lindgren is a dual-threat who can turn a collapsed pocket into a big play. He rushed for 93 yards against Boise State last week. Idaho's WR tandem of junior Orlando Winston and senior Josh Jelmberg combined for 154 yards of last week. Center Matt Martinez of Wenatchee is an all-league contender. On defense, junior linebacker Chad Kodama and defensive end Dennis Taeatafa are real gamers.

FAMOUS BLOOD LINES: Two Vandal players have storied football blood lines – back up QBMichael Harrington is the brother of Detroit Lions QB Joey Harrington, and linebacker Jordan Kramer is the son of former Idaho and Green Bay Packer hall of famer Jerry Kramer.

LAST YEAR: In the Cougars' 36-7 win, Gesser fired for 246 yards and three touchdowns -- two of them to Nakoa McElrath --and Dave Minnich rushed for 127 yards and a TD. In all, McElrath caught 10 passes for 141 yards. Idaho was held scoreless until late in the third quarter.

  INJURY REPORT: Vandal tight end Luke Smith-Anderson and JC transfer defensive end Johnny Parra are out with season ending knee injuries. For the Cougars, receiver Trandon Harvey is out two to four weeks with a tweaked knee, but senior receiver and special teams captain Curtis Nettles is due back. OL Sam Lightbody (hand) is likely out and kickoff man Adam Holiday (hip pointer) is questionable.

NOTABLE NOTES

  • Washington State leads the all-time series against Idaho 65-17-3.
  • Cougar linebacker Will Derting has been named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week for his prolific efforts against Nevada: three INTs, one returned 98 yards for a TD, and six tackles (two for loss).
  • Of the 242 yards Jason Gesser threw for last week, 117 were to Jerome Riley, who also had a touchdown.
  • For the superstitious Cougar fan, WSU has won eight of nine games against Idaho played in a year ending with a "2". And old-timers say that Idaho's 13-0 win in 1912 was questionable at that.
  • Wondering how Gesser's Week One outing compared with other top Heisman contenders? Ken Dorsey, Miami, was 8-for-13, 110 yards, 3 TDs; Rex Grossman, Florida, 16-for-26, 337 yards, 2 TDs; Chris Simms, Texas, 16-for-26, 186 yards, 1 TD; and Byron Leftwich, Marshall, 27-for-41, 469 yards, 4 TDs.
  • Kyle Basler, WSU's redshirt freshman punter, had a monster debut last week. He averaged 47.2 yards with four punts, including 57 and 56 yarders from WSU's endzone.

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