MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho lost focus last week on the road at a 0-4 Northern Colorado team, and a pair of ill-timed unsportsmanlike penalties late in the fourth quarter sealed the Vandals’ 27-24 loss.
So, naturally, the Vandals can expect to play lights out against fourth-ranked Weber State on Saturday in the Kibbie Dome.
Defending the home field has rarely been a problem the past two seasons. With the exception of last year’s loss to Montana, Idaho (2-3, 0-1 Big Sky) is undefeated in the dome over that span and regularly got well at home after road losses. The Vandals’ home record includes wins vs. nationally ranked Eastern Washington and North Dakota.
Weber State’s defense has limited opponents to an average of 202.3 passing yards and 16.5 points per game. The Wildcats’ record (2-2, 0-0) includes narrow losses to San Diego State (6-0) and Nevada (19-13); the Wildcats dispatched Cal Poly 41-24 and ninth-ranked Northern Iowa 29-17.
With its 4-3 scheme, Weber State brings intense pressure, highlighted by senior defensive end Jonah Williams (three sacks against Nevada).
“The biggest thing is to block their front,” UI coach Paul Petrino said. “They want to win with defense and special teams.
“They understand what they are doing, and they do it well.”
The Wildcats have a quick-strike receiver in Rashid Shaheed. He has three touchdowns this season, including a 49-yard catch against Cal Poly and a 73-yard scoring play vs. UNI.
“He is as good a skill player as anyone in the league,” Petrino said.
The Vandals should be close to a full roster. Three of four players who have missed time with injuries this season could return, Petrino said.
Idaho’s deep group of capable running backs got deeper after freshman Nick Romano got loose for 132 yards on 15 carries against Northern Colorado. His preferred route through a defense is around the corner, led by All-America guard Noah Johnson.
“Running behind Noah Johnson really helps make it easy,” Romano said. Senior quarterback Mason Petrino has found sophomore receiver Cutrell Haywood for three touchdowns in Idaho’s last two games. Senior Jeff Cotton continues to lead the Vandals with 44 catches for 519 yards and three touchdowns on the season.
To shake off the doldrums of the UNC loss and return to the level of play that allowed the Vandals to defeat EWU and nearly win at Wyoming, Petrino said in practices leading up to Weber State that the Vandals would “push forward as hard as we can, with all kinds of positives.”
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