Vandals get one last shot at Bulldogs

Vandals get one last shot at Bulldogs

THROUGH THE FIRST THREE GAMES THE UNIT VANDAL FANS WERE THE MOST CONCERNED ABOUT going into the season remains the one still in transition: The offensive line. Led by senior LT TYRONE NOVIKOFF, Idaho continues to break in both guards, with as many as five seeing playing time this season. Saturday afternoon in the Dome at 2pm PST, the line gets another big test as Idaho hosts Fresno State.

The Idaho football team would like to erase history and make some at the same time this weekend when Fresno State rolls in Moscow.

For starters, the Vandals haven't defeated the Bulldogs since joining the WAC in 2005. The only other school that Idaho hasn't gotten the best of in the WAC era is Nevada. Both Fresno State and Nevada are leaving the WAC after this season for the Mountain West, which likely will end the football series between the schools.

Saturday's home game also is the WAC opener for the Vandals, who haven't fared well in such games over the years. Idaho is 2-4 all-time in their first conference game, including a 0-2 home record in conference openers.

Idaho hasn't opened WAC play at home since 2007, which was coach Robb Akey's first season in Moscow. The Vandals lost to eventual WAC champion and BCS Bowl qualifier Hawaii despite intercepting Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan five times.

This season, the Vandals play their first two conference games at home. Idaho's best start in conference play came in 2009 when the Vandals started 4-0 and wound up 4-4.


NOTES, QUOTES

--This week's game against Fresno State is being televised by the WAC Sports Network, which can be seen in a variety of conference markets.

--The Vandals and Fresno State are tied for the WAC lead in turnover margin, both with a plus .33 per game average.

--Saturday's game against Fresno State is designated on Dad's Weekend, meaning the Vandals are expecting a Kibbie Dome that's near a sellout.


SERIES HISTORY: Fresno State leads Idaho 9-4 (last meeting, 2010, 23-20 Fresno State).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Vandals rank 111th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in rushing, which has put pressure on the passing game and the offensive line. The Vandals have yielded 10 sacks in three games, ranking 109th in the FBS.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Vandals are yielding nearly 400 yards per game and have recorded only two sacks in three games. Idaho does three interceptions, one of which it returned for a touchdown.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a stretch that is going to test our team. (Texas A&M) was a physical football game. (Fresno State) is the most physical team in our conference. And then we've got a very difficult trip on the bodies, going clear to the Atlantic Ocean (to play Virginia), and then the trip all the way back home to play perhaps the most athletic team in our conference in La. Tech. It is a stretch we've been concerned about." -- Idaho coach Robb Akey on the difficult stretch of opponents that continues this week against Fresno State.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Fresno State at Idaho, Sept. 24 -- Fresno State has won the past eight meetings and this likely will be the final meeting between the schools as the Bulldogs are trotting off to the Mountain West Conference after this season.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Idaho must come up with some type of running game to allow what has been an effective passing game to continue to thrive. The Vandals also must limit penalties, something that has hurt Idaho in each of its first three games. Putting pressure on Fresno State quarterbacks also is important.


PLAYERS TO WATCH:

P Bobby Cowan -- He ranks 10th nationally and leads the WAC with a 45.9-yard average.

WR Mike Scott -- Has been Idaho's leading receiver in every game in terms of yards and catches.

S Gary Walker -- He is the Vandals' leading tackler, averaging eight stops per game.


ROSTER REPORT:

G Sam Tupua (undisclosed injury) is questionable for Saturday's game vs. Fresno State.

G Jordan Johnson (undisclosed injury) is questionable for Saturday's game vs. Fresno State.

LB Jeffrey Bediako (leg) is doubtful for Saturday's game vs. Fresno State.



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