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Vandals’ offense faces huge challenge


MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho center Mike Marboe understands how talented and experienced BYU is on defense. He saw it firsthand last year in a 42-7 loss to the Cougars, and it’s clear in the game film he watched this week.

But that hasn’t dissuaded him from carrying an upbeat outlook into tonight’s nonconference football game with BYU in Provo, Utah.

“They’ve got good coaches, and they’ve got a good team,” Marboe said. “But they give you stuff on offense that you’ve got to take advantage of. And that’s our game plan. We can go out and move the ball on these guys. We’ve got to step up and play better, and it starts with us.”

Marboe was referring to the Vandals’ offensive line, which has shown gradual improvement this season (last week notwithstanding) and will need to hold up against the Cougars’ relentless defense.

BYU (5-4) is in the top 10 nationally in every major defensive category and gives up the fourth-fewest points per game (14.3) in the FBS. The Cougars impressed UI interim coach Jason Gesser by clamping down on Boise State and Utah State earlier this year, and by allowing just 17 points at Notre Dame.

Idaho, meanwhile, sits in the bottom five in the FBS in scoring offense and rushing offense. Last week against San Jose State, it had more three-and-outs in the first half than first downs.

“They come out and play hard every single play,” Gesser said of BYU. “They come out and hit you in the mouth. They have the ability out there to where if … we don’t only match that but overcome that, we’re going to be in for a long night.”

The Vandals, 1-8 overall and 0-1 under Gesser, are 39½-point underdogs. With ESPNU on hand, this will be their first nationally televised game of the season, and first cold-weather game of the year.

“It definitely makes a difference than playing the heat or something like that,” safety Gary Walker said. “But we’re in Idaho – we’re already practicing in the cold weather. We’re already prepared.”

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