Vandals come home

Idaho (1-3) at #13 Washington (2-1) Saturday, September 28 - 12:35 PM (PDT) – No live TV<br>Husky Stadium – Seattle, WA<br>Series All-time: Washington leads, 31-2-2<br>Last Meeting: September 22, 2001 - Washington 53, Idaho 3<br>Line: Washington minus 30

In the third year of Idaho coach Tom Cable's regime, there hasn't been a lot of "high"light for Vandal fans to illuminate with. Heck, they even had to borrow WSU's Martin Stadium during Cable's first two years, the result of an NCAA edict that a school must average 17,000 fans per home game over a four-year span or risk losing Division 1-A accreditation.

That is, unless your home stadium held at least 30,000. In which case, you only had to average 17,000 once over a four-year span - hence the move across the border.

Well, in 1999 the Vandals averaged over 25,000 per "home" game on the Cougar campus, far exceeding the limit. They averaged well over the allowable in 2000 as well.

It got Idaho over the 17,000 summit. It gave them a reprieve from potential NCAA repercussions. More importantly, it allowed them to return home for at least the next three seasons.

And last Saturday afternoon, the 14,887 fans packed in the Moscow Kibbie Dome shone like the full moon.

"Good thing the scoreboard had enough light bulbs to keep working . . . today is why I came back here," a beaming Cable said in the wake of Idaho's 48-38 shootout win over San Diego State – a game that featured 60 first downs, 888 passing yards and 11 passing touchdowns. "Today is why I love this program and these kids so much. It's an unbelievable feeling right now, and there's going to be a lot more to come."

Cable was in an understandably upbeat mood on Monday when talking about his 13th-ranked opponent. "They should be unbeaten right now," Cable said. "They've also played some teams they are superior to, and handled them rather easily.

"And we're not there yet. One win doesn't solve all our problems . . . but we're plugging along, executing, staying together. We just have to control those things we can and not worry so much about the things we can't."

Husky coach Rick Neuheisel is well aware that this is a different Idaho team coming into Montlake than the one that won but a single game last year. "They scored (48) points against a San Diego State team that has given the PAC-10 fits," Neuheisel said. "They're riding high right now, and there's nothing like a victory to bring confidence back to into a program. It will be a real good test for our defense."

"They're coming off a huge win, and it's our final game prior to PAC-10 play. I'm anxious to see just how we respond."

Assuming both teams' offenses continue their aerial hijinks unabated, game ball endurance could end up facing the sternest test of all.

TEAM STATS:  26.0 points, 404.5 yards (104.3 rush, 300.2 pass),  

RUSHING:     Malfred Shaw 38-206-1 TD (5.4) 
             Zach Gerstner 48-172-1 TD (3.6)
             Blair Lewis 29-98-0 TD (3.4)
PASSING:     Brian Lindgren 110-168-3 (.655), 1092 yards, 11 TD 
RECEIVING:   Josh Jelmberg 31-334-6 TD (10.8), long 29
             Orlando Winston 22-278-1 TD (12.6), long 30
             Chris Belser 16-176-0 TD (11.0), long 30
If their performance against San Diego State is any indication, the Vandals we are accustomed to have returned -- Idaho racked up 34 first downs and 531 yards of offense in 90 plays. And despite a 58-21 loss earlier this season in Eugene, the Vandals out-gained Oregon 404-403 and out-first downed them 28-16. It's a ball-control passing game, and they'll change out a lot of players while showing lots of motion and formations.

Walla Walla's Brian Lindgren (6-4, 208) got his baptism in last year's game at Husky Stadium when starting QB John Welsh went down early with an injury. He would only throw for 80 yards, but would later toss for an NCAA-high 637 yards and five touchdowns in a 70-58 loss to Middle Tennessee -- a game Idaho trailed 42-10 at halftime. Lindgren was named the Sun Belt Conference offensive player of the week for his 382-yard, six-TD performance against SDSU. More impressively, he completed passes to eleven different receivers. So far, Lindgren has hit on 65.5 percent of his passes.

Senior receiver Josh Jelmberg (6-1, 193) has 115 career receptions, and six of his seven career TDs have come in the last four games – including three against San Diego State. He's a slant guy, and knows how to find the seams. Jelmberg has also thrown a 36-yard strike to fellow wideout Jeff Stowe – Idaho's longest pass play this season. Garfield junior Orlando Winston (6-0, 187), who took a year off in 2000, caught his first career touchdown against the Aztecs; while Bethel senior Chris Belser (5-11, 174) went over the 1,000 career-yardage mark last week – his best day totaled 87 yards against Washington two years ago. Four of tight end Kelly Nead's (6-4, 252) five receptions have gone for first downs.

Leading rusher Blair Lewis (5-11, 216) returned to the Vandal lineup last week after missing two games with an ankle sprain. Lewis scored his first TD in nearly a year on a remarkable run-after-catch, and then did his best Edwin Moses impression by glissading over a tarp. He'll share time with junior Malfred Shaw (5-10, 212), a transfer from Sierra College in Sacramento. Shaw ran for nearly 1,500 yards last year, and averages over five yards per carry. Junior co-captain Zach Gerstner (5-10, 202) is a dual threat in the backfield, and has three TDs on the season.

Three juniors and two seniors dominate a line that has allowed Lindgren to flourish, though it has allowed 14 sacks. Senior tackle Josh Jelinek (6-4, 314) was a defensive line starter the last two seasons, while center Matt Martinez (6-2, 304) is being touted by Cable for the Rimington (the nation's best center) award. Guards Robert Mitchell (6-2, 320) and Jason Cobb (6-4, 298) are both returning starters, as is co-captain Jake Scott (6-5, 283).

TEAM STATS:     45.8 points, 502.0 yards (179.3 rush, 322.7 pass) 

TACKLES/TFL:    Jordan Kramer 23/4
                Patrick Libey 23/0    
                Brandon Kania 16/4

PASSES DEF/INT: Rod Bryant 4/1
                Bryan Howard 2/0 
                Ed Rankin 2/0 

SACKS:          Brandon Kania 2.0
                Jordan Kramer 1.0
                Chad Kodama 1.0
Statistics-wise, Washington has the worst red-zone offense in the PAC-10, scoring only 12 times in 18 chances. If there was ever a game to improve on that it's this one, where Idaho has the worst defense in the western hemisphere. Frankly, the Vandals have been a dreadful stop unit, allowing 502 yards per game – 115th out of 117 Division 1-A teams – and giving up a nation-worst 8.1 yards per play in the process. To wit, only one other team in the country has allowed over seven yards per snap.

The line is big enough, but has combined for only four sacks. Junior DE Kody Kraus (6-3, 237) leads the interior with 17 tackles. Sophomore Brandon Kania (6-3, 236) got to Aztec QB Adam Hall twice last week, and leads the Vandals with four tackles-for-loss. Senior co-captain Dennis Taeatafa (6-3, 270) is making the most of his granted sixth year. Taeatafa missed the 2000 season attending family matters after the death of his mother, but returned last season with three sacks.

Senior SLB Jordan Kramer (6-2, 235) leads the Vandals with 23 tackles. Kramer, the son of former Green Bay great Jerry Kramer, forced a fumble against the Aztecs and has three TFL. Junior co-captain Patrick Libey (6-1, 240) also has 23 stops from his middle linebacker spot, and weakside LB Chad Kodama (6-2, 232), a converted quarterback, has two backfield stops and a pass breakup to go with 17 tackles.

Junior cornerback Rod Bryant (6-1, 180) faced the nation's leading receiver last week in J.R. Tolver (184 yards, three TDs), and now likely gets Reggie Williams. Bryant owns the lone Idaho interception, and has three other pass breakups. Senior CB Ed Rankin (6-1, 188), from Federal Way-Decatur, still seeks the first interception of his career. Junior free safety Robert Ortega (6-1, 200) was a corner at Chaffey JC, where he picked off three passes, and senior strong safety Sergio Robleto (5-10, 187) was the Vandals' second-leading tackler in 2001.

PLACEKICKING:  Keith Stamps 2-4 FG (long 40), 14-14 XP
PUNTING:       Ryan Downes 18-44.1 (long 55), .167 inside the 20
KICK RETURNS:  Cedric Thompson 16-23.1 (long 63), 0 TD
               Rod Bryant 6-14.8 (long 32), 0 TD
PUNT RETURNS:  Cedric Thompson 10-9.1 (long 55), 0 TD
Senior place-kicker Keith Stamps (5-10, 221) scored Idaho's only points in last year's meeting. Stamps has hit 7-of-12 three-pointers in his career, with a long of 49 yards. Punter Ryan Downes (6-5, 224) has improved his average almost five yards per boot from a year ago. Junior Cedric Thompson (5-8, 175) is elusive and quick. His 63-yard kickoff return against San Diego State was the longest of his young Division 1-A career – Thompson did bring one back all the way last year for College of the Canyons.



Gilby top Vandal, too: Husky offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson is Idaho's all-time winningest head coach. Gilby went 28-9 in his three years on the Moscow campus (1986-88) for a .757 winning percentage. His graduate assistant those last two years was one Tom Cable, who would follow Gilbertson on to California . . . Vandal Youth Movement: Defensive end Dennis Taeatafa is Idaho's lone senior co-captain. The other four (Brian Lindgren, Patrick Libey, Zach Gerstner and Jake Scott) are all juniors. Also, Idaho defensive coordinator Ed Lamb is the youngest Division 1-A coordinator in the country. Lamb will turn 29 next March . . . Twenty-five players from the state of Washington grace the Vandals' roster, and there will be plenty of post-game reunions between former high-school teammates. There's only one Idahoan on the Husky rolls, though – and we all know who that is . . . Pickett line: One quarter of the season is complete, and Cody Pickett is on pace to throw for 4,276 yards for the year. That would break the all-time school mark for a season (currently held by Cary Conklin) by 1,707 yards. It would also shatter Ryan Leaf's all-time PAC-10 season mark by over 600 yards . . . Reggie on notice, too: Reggie Williams needs to average 88 yards per game receiving the rest of the season to surpass Mario Bailey as Washington's all-time leading receiver in yardage. Yes, Reggie's just a sophomore. And yes, that's all-time . . . Going into this week's games, the Sun Belt Conference is 5-20 against non-conference foes . . . Michigan's Philip Brabbs has gone 2-6 in field goals since his 44-yarder beat Washington with no time remaining. Included are two misses from inside 30 yards . . . Beware the Falcon: There are, at last count, 28 non-BCS affiliated schools in Division 1-A. Of those 28, two remain unbeaten – Air Force and Bowling Green, Falcons both . . . Pasadena Bound? With their 31-10 win over Arizona last Saturday, Wisconsin is a quiet 5-0 to start the season. The last two times the Badgers started 5-0, they ended up in the Rose Bowl . . . Sound familiar, Husky fans? Nebraska has dropped three straight games to ranked opponents, allowing 62 (to Colorado), 37 (to Miami) and 40 points (to Penn State) in the process. We'll see how restless the natives are after this Saturday – the Cornhuskers travel to Ames to play Iowa State, who was more impressive against Troy State (42-12) than was Nebraska (31-16) . . .

Rick Samek can be reached at RSAMEK1@ATTBI.COM Top Stories