Vandals take on South Alabama to kickoff Sun Belt play - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Vandals take on South Alabama to kickoff Sun Belt play

The Vandals finished 6-2 in the Sun Belt Conference last season. The Vandals finished 6-2 in the Sun Belt Conference last season.

By Idaho Athletics

THE GAME: Idaho begins Sun Belt Conference play Saturday, at South Alabama. The Vandals (1-2) are coming off a loss in their first road game of the year, while the Jaguars (1-2) picked up their first win last weekend. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. CT/11 a.m. PT, and will be available on ESPN3.
 
WATCH LIVE: The game will be available on ESPN3. Drew Fellios will handle play-by-play with Forrest Connoly providing analysis.
Channel Finder
ESPN3 – ESPN.com/Watch or the ESPN App
 
LISTEN: Dennis Patchin is in his third season as the radio voice of the Vandals. Patchin will call play-by-play alongside Vandal legend Ryan Phillips, who will provide color commentary. The game can be heard on the Vandal Radio Network and online at GoVandals.com. Find stations on the network HERE.
 
ABOUT SOUTH ALABAMA: The Jaguars opened the season with losses to Ole Miss and Oklahoma State. South Alabama picked up its first win of the season Saturday, with a 45-0 victory at home against Alabama A&M. The Jaguars were picked fourth in the SBC preseason coaches' poll.
 
CONFERENCE OPENERS: The Vandals are 35-51-1 all-time in conference openers. They are 1-6 in Sun Belt openers, including a 0-3 record since returning to the league in 2014. The last time Idaho won its conference opener was 2012, against New Mexico State (Western Athletic Conference). The last time the Vandals won a conference opener played on the road was 2009, at New Mexico State.
 
RIGHTING A WRONG: Idaho is making its second all-time trip to South Alabama. The team's last trip to Mobile (Nov. 7, 2015), is burned into the memories of many Vandal coaches and student-athletes. Idaho scored the first 24 points of the game and led 24-7 at halftime. South Alabama's Xavier Johnson returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and the Jaguars went on to take a 45-31 lead midway through the third quarter. By the time the final horn sounded, South Alabama was celebrating a 52-45 come-from-behind win.
 
GETTING OFF THE FIELD: Paul Petrino's keys to victory often include third-down play on both sides of the ball. Idaho ranks second in the Sun Belt and 41st in the country allowing opponents to convert 31.8 percent of third downs. South Alabama has converted 17.9 percent of its third downs, ranking 128th out of 129 teams nationally. The Vandals have held opponents to fewer than 10 yards on 20 out of 41 drives this season.
 
OUTRUNNING JAGUARS: Idaho has rushed for seven total touchdowns against South Alabama the last two seasons and had a running back go for at least 135 yards on the ground each of the last two meetings. Isaiah Saunders enjoyed the best performance of his career last season against the Jaguars. Saunders rushed for 142 yards and scored three times against USA, leading the Vandals to a 38-31 victory. Saunders earned Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors following the game. Elijhaa Penny tallied 135 yards and two touchdowns in the 2015 meeting, while Matt Linehan ran for two scores of his own.
 
HOME RUN THREAT: Aaron Duckworth has accounted for three of the four longest plays from scrimmage for Idaho this season. Against Western Michigan (Sept. 16) Duckworth recorded the longest rush (74 yards) and longest reception (60 yards) by a Vandal this season. He also had a 49-yard catch against Sacramento State in the opener. Last season, Idaho had three runs of at least 40 yards and they all belonged to Duckworth.
 

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