I sent five questions to Travis of Vandal Nation about the upcoming CSU @ Idaho game. He has some great insight as this is a must read as prep for the game.
How much of a home advantage does the Kibbie Dome create with its small tight setting?
The Dome is a pretty neat home field, and it can get very, very loud. We're not talking Big House loud, but for a mid-major school it gets pretty crazy. That's what a roof does. There's signs that it could be the Vandals' best attendance since the sold-out rivalry game with BSU last year. The better the team looks, the better the home-field is going to be, of course - and Akey's Army is having a breakout season.
Look at the stats vs. SDSU - the Aztecs had upwards of a half-dozen false starts, including a couple in a row that killed a key second-half drive. There's excitement back in Moscow, and that makes the Vandals' "12th man" all the more powerful.
Catch the rest after the jump.
What type of looks on defense are the Vandals going to throw at the CSU offense?
The goal is going to be to dominate the line of scrimmage and force Grant Stucker to toss it more than he'd like. With almost as many picks as he has touchdowns, I think the Vandals see a big opportunity to exploit there. The Idaho secondary is vulnerable to the mid-range game, because our CBs seem to play their receivers pretty loose, like they're giving up the catch to make sure they get the tackle. I think the idea is that we're willing to trade off those plays to keep the big-yardage game in check.
But we made NIU's vaunted ground game worthless last week by simply overpowering them on the lines. The Idaho D-front, led by nose tackle Jonah Sataraka, is big and agile, with a lot of penetration against both SDSU and NIU. We have the best rushing D in the conference, allowing just 102 yards per game on the ground.
The overall goal will be to slow CSU down and force their drives to take forever. The Rams might be able to drive down the field, but it'll be in small chunks fiercely fought for, wearing them out and preventing them from getting momentum-changing big plays. It's a bit of a dangerous strategy, because at the same time it wears out the defense, but our offense is capable of eating clock on long drives to give the D a rest.
Having beaten one MWC opponent at home already do you think that gives Idaho an advantage?
More than that, I think the season as a whole gives us an advantage. We're at home and the team's riding its biggest momentum wave in the last decade. Two straight wins, including a road victory against a 16-point favorite, have Vandal fans thinking bowl eligibility for the first time since 1998. This is a team that's not afraid of anyone - not to say they don't respect their opponents, but there's no fear. Yes, Colorado State is a good team - but so was NIU. Just being "good" doesn't guarantee anything against the Vandals, because we're good too. We're not a cupcake anymore.
Name the Vandal player who you think is going to make the biggest impact on offense? Defense?
On offense, you can't go wrong with DeMaundray Woolridge. He's tearing through defensive lines like they're paper tape and breaking tackles like the linebackers are JV kids. In three games, he's totaled 295 yards and five touchdowns, with an average of 7 yards per carry. He's been described as a "bowling ball" - seldom does he go down with the first touch. If Colorado State can't find a way to stop him, it's not likely they'll find a way to win.
On defense, I think the key will be up front - Jonah Sataraka. If he and the rest of the Idaho D-line own the Colorado State front like they dominated Northern Illinois, it's going to be hard for the Rams to sustain any drives. A couple sacks, a few hurries, force Stucker to hurl an awful throw that turns into a pick-six for Idaho... he has the ability to put Colorado State in a hole from the start.
Are you optimistic about the Vandals this year, they currently sit second behind #5 Boise State?
It's hard not to be optimistic about the Vandals right now. They're playing better than they have in a decade, and the talent level is clearly there to get to a bowl game. There will be tough fights in the WAC, and CSU is definitely the second-toughest non-conference foe we face (behind Washington), so this is tempered with the realism that our team is imperfect. Nobody thinks Idaho is really going to finish second in the WAC - there's a lot of quality conference teams like Fresno State and La. Tech who could easily hand us losses. The goal of this team now is to get to six wins and go bowling - something that seemed utterly improbable when we kicked off the season in Las Cruces. If that happens, Vandal fans will be ecstatic.
I'd also note that while it's true the Vandals haven't exactly played the toughest teams in the nation, we haven't played any creampuff FCS teams either. There was not a single gimme game on our schedule.
Vandals win if...
...Nathan Enderle has another smart, efficient game at quarterback (18-of 23 for 270 yards, 3 TDs and no INTs last week) and Woolridge pounds the snot out of Colorado State's defense. If that happens, look for a repeat of the NIU game, where the Vandals marched down the field on four consecutive possessions to score touchdowns.
Rams win if...
...they find a way to stop the Vandals' ground game, because Idaho has not historically done well when forced into a one-dimensional air attack. Enderle isn't great with the long-ball and if he has to dig his team out with deep throws, he's likely to be forced into picks and sacks.