Dating back to the mid-1800s, the long held tradition of “Homecoming” is one that draws alumni and fans from around the country to return to their school’s campuses to celebrate their favorite college teams and everything that the universities mean to them. Following a disappointing loss to rival Washington State last weekend in the “Battle of the Palouse”, the 0-4 Idaho Vandals return to a rainy and gloomy Moscow today to greet the Vandal faithful in the Kibbie Dome against the Owls of Temple, looking to get their first win of the season.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TEMPLE:
When it comes to offense, the Owls use a balanced pro-style spread mentality that hinges mostly on the run. RBs Zaire Williams and Kenneth Harper have rushed for a combined 68 times this season, gaining a combined 332 yards (69% of the team’s overall total). Temple currently ranks 76th in the nation in rushing at 159.7 yards per game.
In the passing department, Temple has been a bit lack-luster this season with QB Connor Reilly throwing for 497 yards and just a single touchdown. Reilly’s touchdown pass against Fordham a few weeks ago is the only passing touchdown of the season for the team as a whole. The Owls have just been unable to find the end-zone through the air, even with WRs Ryan Alderman and Chris Coyer both having 10 receptions this season.
Defensively, the Owls have given up 22+ points a game and at least 529 yards of total offense to each of their three opponents this season. Even though these numbers seem high, Temple has shown some flair for being tough, forcing Houston to score 15 of their 22 points in their 22-13 win via field goals.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR IDAHO:
Everything starts with the offensive line. Last week against WSU, the Idaho offensive line gave up five sacks and the team was tackled for a loss 14 times. For anything to happen offensively, the line has to be giving QB Chad Chalich the needed push up front to get time to make big plays. If they aren’t able to do that, then Chalich and back-up Josh McCain will continue to get hit in the backfield more than is needed and the defense will be forced to pick up the slack.
If the Idaho line can hold, the Vandals need to make more shots down the field in the passing game. While short wheel routes have worked in the past along with slant routes cutting across the middle, Idaho hasn’t established themselves as a deep ball threat despite having speed receivers that can make the plays. A lot of this goes back to the line not giving Chalich enough time, but if Idaho wants to keep Temple off-balanced, it’s time to air it out.
Defensively, Idaho needs to continue its amazing progress by forcing turnovers and holding Temple’s running offense to a minimal gain. Against WSU, Idaho was able to force four turnovers (two fumbles and two interceptions) that helped give them some momentum. Also forcing three of those turnovers on consecutive drives is a pretty big change from what fans are used to seeing. As long as the defense isn’t on the field for an extensive amount of time like they have been in previous games, the potential for them to hold the Owls to very few points.
On some injury notes, DE Quinton Bradley is out for this game while OL Dallas Sandberg and Jesse Davis are questionable and will probably be game time decisions. Thankfully, DB Solomon Dixon will be returning this week to add some depth to the Idaho secondary.
Outside of the North Texas game potentially, this will be the first time all season that Idaho has played someone who is going through the same growing pains as them. Temple, much like Idaho, is one of the youngest teams in the nation. Both teams have struggled this season with consistency and have yet to really find the chemistry that is needed to make them successful. Both winless, there is definitely going to be a lot of motivation to get that first win of the season.
With it being Homecoming week in Moscow, alumni (much like myself) will be pouring into the city and into the stands at the Kibbie Dome to cheer the Vandals on. This might be one of the few games that Idaho has a legitimate chance of winning this season and it feels like they will take advantage of it. Watch for the Vandals to end their 10 game losing streak dating back to last season with a big win against the Owls.
NCAA 14 Prediction: Temple 49 Idaho 14
My Prediction: Idaho 35 Temple 27
In a special turn of events, I'll be joining the broadcast crew from Vandal Nation today on KUOI 89.3 FM to help out with commentary. You can tune it at KUOI 89.3 FM if you are in the Moscow/Pullman area or you can listen to the live stream on www.kuoi.org.