Idaho (5-6) at Fresno State (6-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 27th, 10:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bulldog Stadium (41,031) -- Fresno, California. Television: WAC Sports Network. Home Record: Idaho 3-2, FSU 3-2. Away Record: Idaho 2-4, FSU 3-2. Neutral Record: Idaho 0-0, FSU 0-0. Conference Record: Idaho 2-4, FSU 4-3. Series Record: Fresno State leads, 8-4.
GAME NOTES: With the possibility of getting into the postseason still on the table, the Idaho Vandals take their best shot against the Fresno State Bulldogs in Western Athletic Conference play this weekend.
The Vandals, who played in one of the more exciting bowl games after last season, snapped a three-game slide last Saturday with a 28-6 romp over Utah State. The victory was the fifth in 11 tries for Idaho, which is now 2-4 in league play and still has a meeting with San Jose State awaiting it on December 4th at home in the Kibbie Dome.
As for the Bulldogs, they are already eligible to take part in the postseason this year, but the last couple of weeks have been hard to take regardless. First the squad suffered a heartbreaking 35-34 loss to Nevada at home on November 13th to snap a three-game win streak, and then last Friday night, in front of a national television audience, the Bulldogs got kicked up and down the field by nationally-ranked Boise State, 51-0. The shutout was the first against Fresno State since suffering one at the hands of San Diego State in a 10-0 setback in 1998. Fresno has one more game left in the regular season after this, hosting Illinois in non-conference action on December 3rd.
The Bulldogs hold an 8-4 advantage in the all-time series with Idaho, thanks in part to a 31-21 win in Moscow last season.
In miserable conditions at Merlin Olsen Field in Logan, the Vandals kept their postseason aspirations alive as Nathan Enderle threw for 243 yards and three touchdowns in the resounding win over Utah State. Enderle converted 20-of-31 passes, was intercepted once and suffered just a single sack, while Deonte Jackson ran for a team-best 62 yards and scored once for the victors as well. Receiver Eric Greenwood turned four receptions into a hefty 114 yards and two TDs despite the wild weather. Greenwood hasn't been heard from all that much this year, but in the last two games he's collected 10 catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns to help Enderle bolster his own numbers. The signal- caller has been up and down all year, but there was a stretch when he posted four straight games with at least three TD passes and last week he notched his five game of the year with a trio of scores. However, Enderle has also tossed a total of 15 interceptions this year, five of which came against Nebraska early on in the campaign.
Outside of giving up enough field position to allow the Aggies to convert two field goals in the first half, the Idaho defense was on point against a Utah State squad that was also fighting to keep bowl possibilities alive. USU was allowed a mere 242 yards of total offense as Tre'Shawn Robinson showed up to make a team-high 12 tackles for the Vandals, two of those behind the line of scrimmage, while Homer Mauga logged a sack against quarterback Diondre Borel. Just like Enderle and the offense, the defense for the Vandals has been erratic at best in 2010, especially in the last month or so. Prior to holding USU to just six points, the third foe this year to be limited to a touchdown or less, the Vandals had given up a combined 160 points in the three previous outings versus Hawaii, Nevada and Boise State, the top three teams in the WAC. Nevertheless, Idaho is still somewhat respectable in terms of points allowed overall, ranked fourth in the conference with an average of 29.3 ppg permitted. Aside from last week, yardage totals by the opposition have been getting out of hand, with the Vandals giving up 417.9 ypg to rank 93rd in the country this week.
Always willing to take on anybody, anywhere and at anytime, Fresno State head coach Pat Hill got his wish last Friday night as his Bulldogs were treated to a 51-0 shellacking by Boise State on the blue turf. FSU seemed to be hanging tough at least through the first quarter, but then the roof caved in and everything went wrong for the visitors. Quarterback Ryan Colburn was held to just 6-of-23 passing for 76 yards, was sacked four times and intercepted twice and running back Robbie Rouse went from having back-to-back 200-yard performances on the ground to generating just 70 yards on 17 attempts. Rouse is now over the 1,000 yards mark on the season for the Bulldogs and has scored eight times on the ground, but as the Broncos showed, it is possible to shut him down. Colburn, who is second on the team with three rushing TDs, has tossed 18 scoring passes in 2010 and has completed 60.8 percent of his attempts, but with the offensive line giving up 2.5 sacks per game, Colburn doesn't always have the time to find his targets down the field once the pocket ceases to exist.
Under the bright lights on the blue carpet, Fresno State held its own in the first quarter against Boise State last week. In fact, the Bulldogs not only slowed the Broncos to just a field goal in the frame, they also picked off a Kellen Moore pass (a rarity for the award-winning QB) and also recovered a fumble by Moore in the period. Unfortunately, that effort could not be sustained and the pass defense for the Bulldogs then allowed 333 yards and four touchdowns as BSU ran away with the lopsided victory. On a personal level, Philip Thomas had a fine game for FSU with the interception and forced fumble, but that was the end of the good news for the Bulldogs. Thomas now leads the team in interceptions with three and has logged 49 tackles in nine games. The two beasts up front continue to be Chris Carter and Logan Harrell who both have nine sacks and have combined for 27 tackles for loss, although they presented virtually no threat to Moore last week.
Even though Hill and the Bulldogs were thoroughly beaten in every conceivable way last week, the head coach will have his squad ready to go this weekend and you can be sure the players will be chomping at the bit to get in their hits against Idaho.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fresno State 28, Idaho 17
11/24 10:48:57 ET