After a 34-14 loss to the Montana Grizzlies, the Vandals hope to return to the winner’s column against the northern Arizona Lumberjacks on Oct. 30 at Kibbie Dome. Despite their last two straight losses where Montana and EWU combined to score more than 100 points over the Vandals, there is reason to hope for entering this game.
The first is that northern Arizona is not the level of competition EWU or Montana was. The Grizzlies and Eagles are both ranked in the FCS top 25, while northern Arizona has faced the same issues as Idaho: inconsistency.
Despite a win over Arizona, a Power Five FBS team and 59 points over Southern Utah, they were also ruled out against Sacramento State and lost to Northern Colorado earlier in the season. This is a team that can either be world champions or be taken on the bus.
In addition to facing a team worse than the level of competition they have had in recent weeks; the Vandals are also looking to find a familiar face in the lineup. Graduate student quarterback Mike Beaudry was training with the first string attack on Tuesday and Wednesday after missing the EWU and Montana game with injury. Beaudry took the majority of the first string reps on Tuesday and looked comfortable, completing most of his passes.
Beaudry’s return to the lineup should help an attack that has struggled to maintain training for the past two weeks.
In addition to having Beaudry back in the lineup, the Vandals’ secondary is now close to being complete. After missing two games with injuries, Hoover returned to the Montana game and now has another healthy week of training.
âIt was really good to have Hoover back (for the Montana game),â said coach Paul Petrino. âI think he played hard and did some good things. We can’t wait to get it over with tonight and have a great workout and (high school) keep improving every day this week.
The high school seemed to embrace that mentality, with first-year cornerback Arnell Walker getting two interceptions against the Scout team’s offense in Tuesday practice.
When it comes to injuries, northern Arizona has been hit by the injury virus. This could be to the advantage of the Vandals who will start on Saturday with a healthier squad than they have had in recent weeks. Last Saturday, the Lumberjacks started their first year in defense, and Sacramento State exploited that, totaling 440 passing yards against the rutted northern Arizona defense.
Northern Arizona will continue to throw in several real freshmen in defense against Idaho, and with Beuadry returning, this is something the Vandals could exploit.
This is a game to be won for the Vandals if they are to end the season with a winning record, and it couldn’t be better for this team.
Including the game against the Lumberjacks, the Vandals still have four games on the schedule. Aside from an away game on Nov. 13 against the Montana State Bobcats, who currently sit atop the Big Sky standings, the rest of Idaho’s opponents have loss records. Despite evidence to the contrary in recent weeks, a healthy Vandal team are hoping to close the season. But it will have to start on Saturday against northern Arizona.
Kick-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. streaming on ESPN + and SWX.
Live coverage can be found on Twitter @VandalNation
Teren Kowatsch can be contacted at [emailÂ protected]