|Date of game: 9/7/2013
Idaho (0-1) at Wyoming (0-1) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: War Memorial Stadium (29,181) -- Laramie, Wyoming. Television: ROOT Sports. Home Record: Idaho 0-0, Wyoming 0-0. Away Record: Idaho 0-1, Wyoming 0-1. Neutral Record: Idaho 0-0, Wyoming 0-0. Conference Record: Idaho 0-0, Wyoming 0-0. Series Record: Wyoming leads, 5-1.
GAME NOTES: After nearly pulling off an upset on the road in the season opener, the Wyoming Cowboys kick off the home portion of their schedule this Saturday against the Idaho Vandals.
Against a Nebraska team that was nationally-ranked and had won all six previous meetings in the series, the Cowboys figured to have their hands full in Lincoln last week, but still Wyoming refused to go quietly before finally falling in a 37-34 final. The Pokes may have come up short in that contest, but they played well enough to convince voters in the AP poll this week to drop the Cornhuskers from 18th in the country to 22nd.
As for the Vandals, their 2013 opener wasn't nearly as exciting as they suffered a 40-6 beating by North Texas last Saturday in Denton. Idaho, which doesn't play at home until Sept. 14 versus Northern Illinois, continues to deal with one of the longest losing streaks in the nation at seven in a row.
Idaho has gone from playing in the Western Athletic Conference to being an Independent this year, the first under new head coach Paul Petrino.
Wyoming owns a 5-1 advantage in the all-time series, thanks in part to a 40-37 victory in overtime last year.
Idaho appeared poised to take a run at the Mean Green last weekend, putting together a 75-yard drive on the first possession, culminating with a six-yard TD pass from Chad Chalich to Jake Manley, but it just wasn't meant to be. The Vandals should have realized it was going to be a long day when Austin Rehkow's PAT was blocked.
The Vandals still managed to generate 390 yards of total offense, but they were hit with 11 penalties for 95 yards. Then again, UNT showed that it was possible to overcome eight infractions for a loss of 152 yards.
Chalich finished the outing 19-of-27 for 230 yards and was sacked four times, although he was second on the unit in rushing with 42 yards on 16 carries.
Defensively, Idaho was able to force a turnover on downs three times, while Bradley Njoku grabbed an interception and Trey Williams recovered a fumble. The squad logged nine tackles for loss overall, but just a single sack by Eric Tuipulotu.
Last season, the Vandals were one of the weakest teams in the country when it came to taking down the opposing quarterback, posting just 1.17 sacks per contest to rank 109th.
The offense was also brutal in 2012 as the team ranked last among 120 FBS schools with only 15.8 ppg, and already the squad is off to an auspicious start.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, had plenty of highlights in their first game of 2013 as Brett Smith again showed why he is one of the best quarterbacks that no one has ever heard of, connecting on 29-of-43 passes for 383 yards and four touchdowns, plus one interception. Smith also accounted for 92 rushing yards, second only to Shaun Wick who dialed up 101 yards and a score.
Receiver Dominic Rufran caught a game-high 11 passes for 120 yards and while the defense for the Cowboys was giving up 530 total yards to the Huskers, there was one standout performance produced by Marqueston Huff who was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week after putting up 18 tackles, one forced fumble and one recovery in the losing effort.
However, because Nebraska ran the ball so often, the Cowboys were never able to catch up to the quarterback and register a sack, something that plagued the squad last year as well when they too were 109th in the country with just 1.17 sacks per contest. The run defense also had some major issues in 2012, giving up 232.3 ypg (117th nationally), and that appears to have carried over into this season as the squad permitted a hefty 375 yards to Nebraska.
The good news is the Pokes still have Smith, ranked 16th in the country last year with 308.5 ypg in total offense, but he'll only be able to fly under the radar for so long before opponents begin to focus all their efforts on stopping him.
The Vandals were able to make things interesting against Wyoming last season, but given the manner in which both of these squads opened up this season there is little chance Idaho will be able to finish within a few touchdowns of the Cowboys.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wyoming 45, Idaho 17Game Date and Time
Saturday, September 7, 4:00 p.m. (et).