Senior left tackle BILLY BATES (6-5.5, 280) was honored this week with the Vandal Pride Award for his performance last Saturday against New Mexico State, when Idaho's senior-laden offensive line paved the way for 271-yards rushing in the Idaho victory. Bates and his fellow linemen face an enormous task this week as San Jose State rolls into Moscow with one of the best defensive lines in the WAC.
With their first WAC win of the season finally under their belts and the "750,000-ton gorilla" off their backs, the Idaho Vandals continue a four week homestand this weekend as they welcome San Jose State into the Kibbie Athletic Center for Military Appreciation Day and a 2pm PST kickoff (no TV coverage for this game).
There are many "keys" to this game for Idaho, and chief among them is for the team to continue the intensity and sense of urgency displayed last Saturday against NMSU. The team displayed an impressive degree of confidence last weekend as the game progressed, particularly defensively as the Vandals shutout the Aggies in the second half.
But for any of the keys to have an impact, the Vandals will need another solid performane out of the offensive line. This is one of the only units on the team that can point to senior leadership, as the group boasts four starters with at least two years of starting experience under their belts.
Working from left tackle to right tackle, the likely starting unit will be:
Billy Bates, (6-5.5, 280, Sr) - Joined the Vandals in 2005 as the No.6 prospect out of the state of Oregon, and earned starting duties as a true freshman before a hand injury ended his season. He worked as a backup in '06, and has been a starter since 2007. He started last season at right tackle, and moved to left tackle this year when projected starter, redshirt freshman Matt Cleveland, went down with an injury in fall camp.
Also getting significant playing time this season is junior guard/center Irvin Stevens and redshirt freshman tackle/guard Tyrone Novikoff. Both Novikoff and Stevens have earned starts this season, and will factor huge in the rotation next season.
Mike Iupati, (6-5.5, 343, Sr) - Offered by Arizona and UTEP out of high school, Iupati became a fulltime starter last fall for Idaho and has a reputation as one of the hardest hitting linemen on the team. He missed the first four weeks of this season with an injury, and has battled back to make the left side of the line a strength for the Vandals.
Adam Korby (6-2, 292, Sr) - Hasn't missed a single game in four years as Idaho's starting center. Last year he earned Second Team All-WAC honors, and has been named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List each of the last three years.
Kris Anderson (6-3, 285, Sr) - Signed with Idaho in '04, redshirted, and has been a starter on the Vandal line each of the last four years. He is the only lineman that has started at every position except center in his career in Moscow. FUN FACT: Korby and Anderson joke that Anderson has started every position but center, although Anderson's position in high school was center, and Korby has started every game at center although he did not play center in high school.
Bryce Sinclair (6-5.5, 326, Jr) - The "pup" of the unit, "Big Nasty" was heralded by Akey and his staff as having a tremendous off-season last summer. The work paid off and Sinclair has earned the starting nod the last few weeks after splitting starting duties earlier this season.
But focusing on this weekend, the five tasked with starting Saturday will face a tremendous Spartan defensive line - a group with outstanding size and agility. The Vandals currently rank fifth in the WAC in rushing yards per game, ahead of Utah State, San Jose State, Hawaii, and New Mexico State. They rank 68th in the nation at 136.11 yards rushing per game, just behind Boise State at 62nd (142.86 yards rushing per game).
San Jose State, on the other hand, rank 11th in the nation and second in the WAC (behind Nevada) at stopping the run, yielding 94.5 yards per game rushing.
We'll go into more detail about the Spartan defense with our game preview, but suffice it to say that the battle in the trenches will likely dictate the outcome of this game.
The University will salute our nation's military personnel on Military Appreciation Day, Saturday, Nov. 1. All veterans or current servicemen and women are invited as the Idaho Vandals take on the San Jose Spartans at 2 p.m. in the Kibbie Dome. These personnel can purchase tickets to the game for themselves and their families for a reduced price of $13 per person. A pre-game social will take place at Camp Vandal on the north lawn of the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center. Other activities include joining the color guard to March on the Colors and a halftime military service induction ceremony. For more information or to RSVP, call (208) 885-5304.