An early must-win game for the Vandals
Senior left tackle MATT CLEVELAND
Senior left tackle MATT CLEVELAND
Special to GoVandals.net
Posted Sep 9, 2011


Idaho (0-1), coming off a frustrating home loss to Bowling Green last weekend, prepares to welcome the University of North Dakota (1-0) to the renovated Kibbie Dome this Saturday afternoon (2pm PST kickoff). The focus for Idaho this weekend will be on correcting issues on both sides of the ball that resulted in blown assignments defensively, miscommunications offensively, and poor line play.

INSIDE SLANT

Robb Akey truly believes that every game his team plays in is of the must-win variety, but there is no doubt of the importance of this week's Idaho game.

The Vandals (0-1) take on Football Championship Subdivision foe North Dakota (1-0) in a nonconference game at the Kibbie Dome.

"I do think it's an important game, but we approach every game the same way," Akey said.

This week's game is a must for confidence and also to keep Idaho's bowl chances alive. The Vandals need to get to six wins and probably need to beat the Fighting Sioux to have a chance to return to postseason play for the second time in three years.

The Vandals, who play two of their next three games on the road against BCS conference opponents, can use a boost of confidence heading into those games.

Akey said the sting of a season-opening loss to Bowling Green remains but that his squad will use that as a learning experience and try to fix the mistakes that were made.

The fifth-year coach said he expects to get a few injured players back this week that will create competition for playing time, which he hopes, will improve discipline and execution in practice.


NOTES, QUOTES

--Idaho has three sets of brothers on its roster this season -- Ryan and Dion Bass, Dallas and Corey Sandburg and twins Jeremiah and Joshua Walters.

--Idaho is opening the season with back-to-back home games for the first time since 1991.

--Brian Reader and Tyrone Novikoff (offense), Tre'Shawn Robinson and Mike Cosgrove (defense) and Tyler Brooks (special teams) are Idaho's captains this season.

SERIES HISTORY: Idaho leads North Dakota 2-0 (last meeting, 2010, Idaho 45-0).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Expect coordinator Steve Axman to try and establish the running game and build confidence in his offensive line. That would give quarterback Brian Reader a better chance to succeed in the passing game.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Vandals recorded only one sack and didn't force a turnover last week. You can bet those are going to be points of emphasis this week during preparations for North Dakota.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We cannot change what happened. But we can affect the things that we need to do this week." -- Idaho coach Robb Akey on fixing mistakes that the Vandals made in their season-opening loss to Bowling Green.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: North Dakota at Idaho, Sept. 10 -- The Vandals take on the Fighting Sioux of the Football Championship Subdivision. Idaho is seeking its first victory of the season before it starts a tough stretch of its schedule that includes games against two BCS conference opponents -- Texas A&M and Virginia.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Idaho needs a much-better performance from its offensive line, which failed to open up room for the running backs to operate and also allowed four sacks in the season-opening loss to Bowling Green. Defensively, the Vandals need to prevent the big play and be effective on third down.


PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB Brian Reader -- The first-year starter is coming off a ragged performance in the loss to Bowling Green. His accuracy (19 of 43) and decision-making must improve this week for Idaho's offense to be more productive.

WR Mike Scott -- The junior college transfer posted team-high totals in catches (six) and yards (89) last week while filling in for injured starter Justin Veltung. Expect Scott to see significant action even if Veltung returns this week.

S Gary Walker -- The junior made a team-high 13 tackles in the loss to Bowling Green.


ROSTER REPORT

--WR Justin Veltung (turf toe) is questionable for the North Dakota game.

--CB Dion Bass (ankle) is probable for the North Dakota game.

--CB Kenneth Patten (knee) is questionable for the North Dakota game.

--WR Preston Davis (foot) is out for the North Dakota game.




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