An already brutal season from a scheduling standpoint was made even move difficult with the events of the past week. As if it weren't enough for this rebuilding team to be going into PAC-10 power Oregon's house for the 4th game of the season, the team has also dealt with a level of adversity most teams never deal with at all.
But the team must move on, and this week they face an Oregon team that is stinging from a rare 0-2 start to their season. The Ducks this season have had to deal with their own player loss as well (incoming recruit Terrance Kelly never made it to campus this fall), and will be dealing with a number of injuries this week against Idaho.
As the Vandal offense continues to search for the chemistry they need to start putting points on the board in traditional Idaho fashion, the defense looks to continues to mature under the watchful eye of first year head coach Nick Holt and staff.
Below is a quick glimpse at the players to look for this weekend, followed by links to additional information about the Oregon Ducks.
WHEN OREGON HAS THE BALL
Against Indiana, and again against Oklahoma on the road last weekend, what is the one commonality between the 2 games? Actually, there are 2. First, the Ducks lost both games (a surprising 30-24 loss to Indiana, and a 31-7 loss to Oklahoma last weekend). Second, in neither game they scored a single first half point.
Look for Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti to change that trend early and often against Idaho.
The Ducks return 8 starters on offense, led by redshirt junior QB Kellen Clemens. Clemens and the Ducks are averaging an impressive 408 yards of offense a game, but averaging just 15 points per game. Their bread and butter is the passing game, and Clemens has a bevy of playmakers to choose from at wide receiver, led by Demetrius Williams, a 6-2, 185 pound junior wide receiver. He's averaging 83 yards receiving a game, with a long of 59 yards. The Ducks other top receivers are fullback Dante Rosario (6-4, 247), an exceptional athlete coming out of the backfield (62 yards a game, 3 TDs), and Marcus Maxwell (6 catches for 56 yards), a 6-4, 205 pound senior with nice speed. TE Tim Day (6-4, 268) is a versatile athlete (27 yards receiving per game) who will be a load to contain.
LARRY JOHNSON / VV.com
|CB Herb Cash|
This group will face off against a Vandal defensive backfield that includes 2 Idaho seniors in cornerback J.R. Ruffin (1 interception on the season) and free safety Simeon Stewart (4th on the team in tackles, 2 forced fumbles), and true freshmen strong safety D.J. Dykes (3rd on the team in tackles). All 3 have started each of Idaho's previous 3 games, and will be tested again this week. The corner opposite Ruffin will see junior Herb Cash make his first start of the season. Herb played in the Boise State game this season, recording 5 tackles including a quarterback sack. Look also for senior Chris Nathan, the backup to Eric McMillan most of this season, to see playing time against Oregon. True freshman Reggie Jones has played in all 3 games and could see CB playing time against Oregon, and RS-Freshman Kyle Williams, who looked solid in spring, may see time as well.
PAT HAUGE / VV.com
Up front the Ducks are big and physical, with all 5 linemen parked around 300 pounds, and the tackles each going 6-6, the guards going 6-4, and the center standing 6-3. They lead the way for a rushing attack that is averaging about 130 yards per game, and a passing attack that is posting 250 yards per game. The rushing attack is led by junior Terrence Whitehead (57 yards per game), and senior Kenny Washington (54 yards per game).
The Vandals will counter with a defensive front seven that hasn't changed since the Boise State game, assuming true freshman Siua Musika (6-1, 302) makes the start. Its a critical point, given that only 3 of the front seven (Brandon Kania, Mike Anderson, and Nate Nichols) started for Idaho last year, and 7 of the 14 player 2-deep Depth Chart either didn't see any significant playing time last year, or were in high school. Middle linebacker Cole Snyder leads the charge for the Vandal linebacking corp, with a team best 30 tackles so far this season, 4 tackles for loss, 2 QB sacks and 2 pass breakups. On his heals is starting inside linebacker Robert Davis with 24 tackles, including 2 tackles for loss. The front seven has given up, on average, 200 yards rushing a game, and will work to keep that number in check Saturday.
LARRY JOHNSON / VandalVenue.com
|Middle linebacker COLE SNYDER gets into position.|
Overall, expect the Ducks to do everything they can to start putting points on the board early, and in bunches.
WHEN IDAHO HAS THE BALL
The Ducks run a 4-3 defensive scheme and boast a big, physical defensive line. One of the biggest of the Ducks is Haloti Ngata, a 6-5, 345 pound sophomore who may be held out of this game due to injury. Through 2 games his backup, sophomore Matt Toeaina (6-3, 285) has recorded 2 tackles for loss, a sack, and recovered a fumble. Defensive end Devan Long is 4th on the team in tackles, with 4 tackles for loss and a sack. Opposite Long is DE Chris Solomona (6-4, 280), who's 5th on the team in tackles. Plugging the middle is Robby Valenzuela (6-2, 297) with 7 tackles on the year.
The linebacking corp for Oregon is veteran and athletic, with both of its inside linebackers (seniors Romone Reed and Jerry Matson) 2nd and 3rd on the team in tackles, with 4 tackles for loss and 1 QB sack between them.
LARRY JOHNSON / VandalVenue.com
|Runningback ROLLY LUMBALA explodes for a 20 yard gain.|
Idaho will counter with a line that, if sophomore Hank Therien starts, will make its 3rd start of the season as a unit. Last week Idaho started, from left to right, Hank Therien, Jade Tadvick, Jarrod Schulte, Tony Kiel, and Nate VanderPol. Look for true freshmen Desmond Clark and Marcis Fennell to rotate in, along with junior Ryan Waage. When rushing the ball Idaho will attack with sophomore Cliff Mason getting the starting nod. Last week, true freshmen Jayson Bird and Rolly Lumbala were effective against a stout Cougar defense, combining for over 140 yards. These guys will probably be called upon in pass protection, and must be effective blocking for Idaho to be productive moving the ball through the air.
The defensive backfield for the Ducks is a little banged up, and Bellotti may choose to sit both his starting cornerbacks for this game (Aaron Gibson left the Oklahoma game with a concussion, and Justin Phinisee is dealing with a hamstring injury). The Ducks are deep at corner, and the backups have seen quite a bit of time in the first 2 games. The team's leading tackler, free safety J.D. Nelson, has 18 tackles on the year, 2 tackles for loss, a sack, and 1 forced fumble. Again, as is the case for most of the Duck team, this unit is not hurting for speed.
The Idaho passing attack starts with junior Michael Harrington as the team looks for the right combination to start stretching the field. A native of Portland and the brother of one of Oregon's most prolific quarterbacks, Joey Harrington, Michael likely has had this game circled on his calendar for quite some time. Receivers Bobby Bernal-Wood and Wendell Octave are averaging less than 40 yards per game (Bobby 39, Wendell 20), and about 7 yards per catch. Tightend Willie Sipoloa leads the TE unit with 4 catches on the season for 26 yards and a long of 8 yards. If this unit can get untracked, when combined with Idaho's developing running attack that has looked better each of the first 3 games this season, Idaho's offense might be able to get back to its highly productive form of a couple years ago.
Overall, the defensive unit of the Ducks' is formidible. They have size where you want it, and nice team speed. A big challenge for a developing offensive unit.
LINK: Official Idaho Pregame Release (PDF)
LINK: Marcus Maxwell Profile (The Register Guard)
LINK: Offense has first half blues (The StatesmanJournal)
LINK: Time for the Players to Step Up (eDuck Report)
LINK: Winless Ducks hope to take out frustrations on Vandals (The Register-Guard)