Better Know a Foe: Week 7 – Everything’s bigger in Texas (State)

11 Oct

Idaho takes to the road this week to San Marcos, Texas, home of newly minted FBS program Texas State. The Bobcats will enter the Sun Belt next year, though for now the focus is on its debut and only season in the WAC. The program has been disappointing as a whole, losing three of its last four (the one win a close one over FCS Sam Houston State).

The Bobcats came out of the gate strong ravaging the Houston Cougars in Houston, though Houston has proved not to be the team it was a year ago under Kevin Sumlin. A close game against Nevada, only to turn around and get blown out against New Mexico, leave Texas State somewhat of an anomaly.

The Idaho starting quarterback has confidence erupting from his veins. Can he turn it in to a road victory?

One thing is for sure, the match-up Saturday will be a measuring stick for both programs. Idaho coach Robb Akey is serious about Idaho’s “new” WAC season. As far as he is concerned Idaho is 1-0, undefeated towards his goal of winning the final WAC football championship.

Idaho was able to take advantage of one struggling program last week with a win over New Mexico State, albeit ugly. If Idaho wants its first road win of the season the ugly mistakes are going to have to be cleaned up. Idaho needs to learn how to string together consistency throughout a game and learn how to take hold of momentum.

Idaho pulling out a victory against New Mexico State was never in doubt by the third quarter, but failing to score a touchdown in the second half allowed the Aggies to pull within one possession with under two minutes left to go in the game. That kind of lack of killer instinct will doom Idaho in the future, as we’ve already seen in the loss to Wyoming.

That won’t fly on the road against a scrappy Texas State team. Letting a team hang around in their own building is a recipe to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Of course, this is all assuming Idaho is able to take a lead to hold on to in the first place. Think positive, right?

Will Idaho take heed and go to 2-0 in the WAC? We’ll find out Saturday.

Necessary Links

We ran a feature on Idaho senior kicker Trey Farquhar who has made his last seven kicks, three from over 50.

Our game preview focuses on the improvements the offense hopes to make

In case you missed it, the WAC has expanded, though it doesn’t affect football.

ESPN ran an extensive feature on Idaho’s Kibbie Dome. Wonder what Craig Thompson or Karl Benson would have to say about the Dome…

Key match-ups

Texas State is wildly inconsistent offensively, though when the Bobcats are moving the ball well it’s with efficient passing, balance and by wearing down opposing defenses. The Bobcats run a variation of the run-pass option spread and will look to wear down Idaho defensively. It’s a concern for the Vandals as injuries have taken its toll on the depth of the defense.

Without Conrad Scheidt and James Randall the linebacking core lacks the quality speed behind the starting trio to spell and keep legs fresh. The defensive line isn’t built on speed and running sideline to sideline, it’s built on penetration and power. That could be a blessing if DT Quayshawne Buckley continues to create penetration in the backfield, and make Texas State QB Shaun Rutherford have to think on his feet. The curse will be if anything but happens.

Most importantly? Idaho needs to get off the field on third down. In the three games against Mid-Major competition the Vandals have held opponents to 50-percent or less conversion on third down. It’s something that Idaho shouldn’t struggle with, given the offense does its part.

Which gets to the next key – Run the ball and eat clock. The Bobcats have given up 634 combined rushing yards to Nevada and New Mexico the last two weeks. The last time Idaho faced a struggling rushing defense, Wyoming, the Vandals gained a season high 203 rushing yards. The running game displayed physicality between the tackles in the short run game along with the ability to bust the big play.

Idaho was forced to take more shots down the field last week because the lack of running game meant that Idaho’s offense was incredibly one-dimensional with the short passing game. The ability to run the ball on lesser competition would go a long way towards alleviating the pressure on Idaho QB Dominique Blackman, and allow offensive coordinator Jason Gesser to operate a well rounded offense that imposes itself on its opponent, instead of one that is forced to alter its identity from week to week. Replicating the 82-yard rushing performance from last week simply won’t cut it. See the six second half points Idaho scored when the offense didn’t benefit from turnovers and was forced to drive the length of the field.

Opposing viewpoint

This week we’re joined by Jack Hopkins, who operates the WACJack blog, and former of Bobcat Report.

Vandal Nation: Talk about this Texas State program as a whole. The win over Houston was a big statement, the last four games not so much. How are fans feeling about the transition so far?

Jack Hopkins: I’ve watched the Bobcats play Houston, Texas Tech, Nevada, and New Mexico. Right now I think the people that care passionately about the program are disappointed, but I also think a few have been levelheaded and understand that Texas State wasn’t even a good FCS team last season.

Home attendance outside of the Texas Tech game has been abysmal.  With the Vandals coming to town during Austin City Limits and on the same day of the Texas/Oklahoma Red River Shootout, I don’t expect many fans to see the game.

VN: Talk about the quarterback position. Shaun Rutherford has good numbers on the surface, though some fans I’ve talked to seem iffy on the position so far.

JH: Several Bobcat fans would like to strip this funky run-first spread zone-read option offense and install a system with more drop back passing.

Tyler Arndt, Rutherford’s backup, would be better suited to running that kind of scheme. Rutherford’s history of fumbling made many fans wish for a change, though it looks like the best option in this scheme might be the third string quarterback, Duke DeLancelotti.

There’s not much to complain about Rutherford’s command of the offense this season, except for that it looks like the other team I’ve seen that runs it, New Mexico, has figured out how to play both a passing and a running QB for sixty minutes.  Franchione likes to use Rutherford until the team has fallen behind to the point where he needs a passer, and Arndt is then inserted.

VN: Marcus Curry. Dynamic and explosive, it looks like. Talk about what this kid is capable of, has he been everything fans expected this season?

JH: Curry, believe it or not, has probably been underused this season.

He had five carries for seventeen yards against the Lobos, then eight for 33 the week before against Nevada. Curry also met Duke Johnson that week. While he shares carries with Terrance Franks, Curry also only has 79 yards combined in the four games since his outburst in Houston for 131.

The coaches need to figure out a way to get him the ball, as Curry is one of the most talented backs in the conference.

VN: What’s the environment like for a game at San Marcos? Has it ramped up now that the Bobcats are in the WAC?

JH: I’ll be honest – I haven’t made a game all season.  From what I know, the opener against Texas Tech was fantastic outside the scoreboard, rain dropped the Nevada attendance to a laughable number, and not many fans were enthused to see old Southland foe Stephen F. Austin.

I think the excitement for the WAC was for the one that contained Fresno State, Nevada, and Hawaii – not the one that gets scrapped after a season and then follows with a trip to the Sun Belt.  That’s nothing against the Vandals or Idaho, as I’m sure you feel the same way.

VN: The Bobcats have given up at least 34 points in their last four games. What’s the reason behind the defense struggling so mightily?

JH: Both of the lines are dinged up and a little lighter than most FBS teams counter with.  This funky offense I described earlier is meant to devour time of possession.

When it’s coming off the field repeatedly, the defense is wearing down.  Texas Tech, Nevada, and New Mexico bottled the Bobcats up early and often, and really weren’t threatened after halftime.

Wrapping up:

Kick-off will be 4 PST/5 MT. Television is the Vandal sports network, which includes Altitude in Moscow and should be available anywhere from Spokane to Boise, so check your local listing.

You can also tune-in to the Vandal Radio Network with Tom Morris on the call. Check your local listings for that as well.

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