Congratulations to the Idaho Vandals on their great win over our Huskies this weekend. Rarely has a score been more misleading as the Vandals' domination was thorough. Much like last year's Central Michigan game the Huskies hung around and somehow, incredibly made it close. They even had a chance to win at the end but a great throw and catch by the Vandals put it away.
How dominating were the Vandals on this day? Here's Idaho's drive chart:
- 9 plays, 45 yards, missed field goal.
- 8 plays, 80 yards, TOUCHDOWN
- 7 plays, 64 yards, TOUCHDOWN
- 7 plays, 92 yards, TOUCHDOWN
- 12 plays, 76 yards, TOUCHDOWN
- 9 plays, 59 yards, field goal (They were probably tired by this point)
- 4 plays, -2 yards, field goal
- 3 plays, 0 yards, punt
- 11 plays, 68 yards, game over
The only reason they didn't score more points is that their drives were so long and methodical. Our defense was completely beaten down by the end, as witnessed by Pat Schiller's embarrassing tackle attempt late in the game where the guy basically ran right over him. Not to pick on Schiller too much as he was far from the only one not tackling. Schiller is a good player but I think he's out of position at middle linebacker. He seems like more of a lateral pursuit guy who would do well on the outside.
This team doesn't really have a classic middle backer on the roster, a guy who can stand up to the pounding and be really stout against the run. It would be interesting to see them put Victor Jacques in the middle next year and move Schiller outside. That doesn't help this season as the coaches feel Jacques has a lot to learn about the position. Devon Butler looks good but he weighs 209. Phil Brown looks the part but the coaches don't seem to like him as he only plays special teams. I thought Zach Larsen did a great job there two years ago but he's another one these coaches didn't seem to care for and he moved on. Too bad. Cameron Bell would be an interesting option as he played linebacker at Iowa State and he has the stature at 6'2", 240 but it seems he's here to play running back.
This Idaho team is intriguing. They have an NFL caliber quarterback, a humongous offensive line, a great thunder and lightning combination at running back and some nice receivers including the 6'6" guy who did us in with the great diving catch at the end. It's easy to see why they've scored so many points this season. It will be tough for anyone to shut them down and they will be very, very difficult to beat at home in their dome. I don't know how this team stacks up in the WAC but if they were in the MAC they would be one of the favorites to win the title. I can definitely see this team being bowl eligible this year and I hope they make it as their fans have suffered for a long time.
The Vandals are now my third favorite team behind the Huskies and of course the Indiana State Sycamores. Here is a great story on the rebuilding effort going on at ISU. The story of their turf is astounding to say the least. There are some parallels between Indiana State and Idaho in that both are undergoing rebuilding efforts and both have historically been hard places to field a winning team. Kudos to the Idaho coach for the great job he's done so far.
Idaho sure gave the MAC teams a lesson on how to attack the Huskie defense, pounding away at its middle. Let's see, what MAC team can we think of that has a big, NFL caliber quarterback, runs a pro style offense behind an enormous offensive line and likes to control the clock with its running game? Oh, yeah, Western Michigan! Don't we play them soon? I don't think WMU will have to sweat too much to create their game plan for t his weekend. On offense they'll pound the center of the NIU defense and use the run to set up play action passes. On defense they'll attack the center of NIU's offensive line where we'll have either a gimpy Eddie Adamski or his rookie backup Scott Wedige at center, playing next to Joe Pawlak and his bad ankle. We saw the effects of Pawlak's ankle when the defensive tackle blew past him for a sack that almost killed Harnish. As my son put it "They won't like that one on film". Whatever ailed the Huskies against Idaho they need to correct it this week or it will be a repeat performance.
Much credit goes to the Idaho team but it also seemed clear the Huskies played without the passion we saw the previous week against Purdue, probably due to several factors including being beaten up, reading their press clippings and hearing how great they are all week prior to the game. Also, Reed Cunningham missed the game with the flu and you have to wonder if the flu didn't contribute to the lethargy in others. The small and listless crowd didn't help either. I noticed Nathan Palmer didn't play. It would be nice to see us throw downfield once in a while and the new guys should be able to get down there even if Palmer is not available. Just taking a shot once in a while would keep the defense honest. I thought they were going to do more of that this year.
The upcoming Western Michigan game is a key to the rest of this season. When we beat Purdue I felt this team could achieve an 8-4 record or even 9-3 but now this game will make or break us. If you look at the schedule it seems like the Huskies have a good chance to win the rest of their home games (Akron, Eastern Michigan, Ball State) besides WMU. Doing so would give them 5 wins. On their road slate I count Toledo and Central Michigan as almost sure losses as our record against accomplished spread offense teams is abysmal. Miami is a probable win and Ohio could go either way. Miami would give us 6 wins. Some combination of wins against WMU and Ohio gives us 7 or 8 wins. Eight wins would be great because even with that many they still could be number three in the West which puts them at number four in the bowl pecking order, i.e. hoping for an opening in a non-MAC bowl. Coming into the season I was hoping for 2-2 nonconference and 6-2 in the MAC and that's still my hope but this next game is critical.
A quick comment on the craziness at the end of the first half where the Huskies were allowed to spike the ball with less than a second left on the clock and ended up getting a field goal. The NCAA would be wise to create a rule similar to the NBA where they are not allowed to take a shot under a certain time threshold. I don't remember exactly what the threshold is (.3 seconds maybe?) but once the clock is stopped at that threshold the offensive team can only tip the ball in. You may recall that rule was enacted after a Knicks-Bulls game where there was .1 second left and the Knicks inbounded into the corner and the guy turned around and drained a three pointer. The rule eliminates inconsistencies in clock management and the NCAA should do the same. As much as I liked the Huskies getting the field goal on Saturday there's no way, starting with .9 seconds on the clock, the clock can start with the snap, the official signals the end of the play and the clock can stop before time expires. The NCAA should say that if there are under 1.5 seconds left on the clock you only get one more play. That would eliminate any inconsistencies in clock management. As it is you'll have one team upset either way.
Finally, I want to wish Western Illinois football coach Don Patterson good luck in his recovery from cancer treatment. By all accounts he's a class act and we wish him, his family and the WIU team all the best.