Idaho (0-2) at Ohio (1-2) (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Peden Stadium (24,000) — Athens, Ohio. Television:
None. Home Record: Idaho 0-1, Ohio 0-0. Away Record: Idaho 0-1, Ohio 1-2.
Neutral Record: Idaho 0-0, Ohio 0-0. Conference Record: Idaho 0-1, Ohio 1-0.
Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.

GAME NOTES: The Idaho Vandals will try to bounce back from two tough early-
season losses as they travel to Athens to face the Ohio Bobcats in a non-
conference tilt at Peden Stadium Saturday.

Idaho had its first game of the season rained out at Florida, so the first
contest the Vandals played was on Sept. 6 against ULM, which the Warhawks won,
38-31. This past weekend, Idaho opened its home slate with a loss to Mid-
American Conference program Western Michigan, 45-33. The Vandals, of the Sun
Belt Conference, take on their second straight MAC squad this weekend.

The Bobcats started their season strong with a Mid-American Conference win
over intrastate rival Kent State, 17-14. But since then, it’s been downhill
for Ohio, which has dropped two consecutive contests to Kentucky (20-3) and
Marshall (44-14). The Bobcats have two more non-conference games on the slate
before they head into conference play.

The two sides have only met twice on the football field in their program
histories, with each side taking a decision. The last time they clashed head-
to-head was back in the 1976 season.

Offense hasn’t been an issue for Idaho through the team’s first two games of
the season. In fact, the Vandals have registered 64 combined points against
their two opponents. It’s been the team’s defense that has let it down,
allowing 83 points in two games. Quarterback Matt Linehan has played well in
his two games under center, accounting for 362 yards and three touchdowns in
the team’s loss to WMU Saturday. In two games played, Linehan has 686 passing
yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

The problem with Idaho’s offense has been an absence of a running game to
complement Linehan’s strong passing ability. Jerrel Brown is the team’s
leading rusher with 161 net yards through two games, and the Vandals have just
two rushing scores (one from Linehan). As a team that averages 81.5 rushing
ypg, Idaho could use a bump in production from its backfield.

Linehan’s success as a passer depends on the work his receivers and pass
catchers do to get open. So far they’ve been able to create separation to help
Linehan out. Quarterback-turned-receiver Joshua McCain leads the team so far
this season with 15 catches for 221 yards and three scores. Both Deon Watson
(12 receptions, 153 yards, TD) and Richard Montgomery (nine receptions, 161
yards, TD) are over the 100-yard receiving mark in the two games.

Again, it all comes back to defense for Idaho, which surrenders an average of
208 rushing ypg, 301 passing ypg and 509 total ypg to opponents. Those numbers
are directly related to the 41.5 ppg the Vandals have allowed through the
first two contests this season. Opponents are 6-of-7 in red-zone opportunities
in that span.

Defensive back Jordan Grabski led all Idaho players in tackles against Western
Michigan with 11. He ranks third on the team with 15 total stops in the team’s
first two games, which is five tackles behind team leader Marc Millan. The
linebacker has registered 20 tackles (six against WMU) and four tackles for
loss, and adds a quarterback hurry to his season stat line.

Ohio’s narrow win against Kent State in the first week of the season provided
fans with a glimpse of relief and joy, but since then the Bobcats have
provided the complete opposite. Ohio’s offense is averaging a mere 11.3 ppg
through the first three contests, and is managing a relatively meager 345.7
combined offensive ypg total. It starts with the team’s quarterback situation,
which is shaky at best. Derrius Vick got the majority of the reps against
Marshall (18-of-29, 200 yards, TD, INT) in the lopsided loss, but J.D. Sprague
saw time as well, and passed for a touchdown and 36 yards in eight attempts.

The running game hasn’t been much more consistent, although Daz’mond Patterson
at least has the starting running back job won. But it wasn’t Patterson who
led the team in rushing against Marshall. It was Vick, with his 11 carries for
51 yards. In three games played, Patterson leads the Bobcats with 141 rushing
yards and an average of 47 rushing ypg. Ohio has yet to score a touchdown on
the ground.

If Idaho can take away Landon Smith (11 receptions, 97 yards, 2 TD) and
Brendan Cope (eight receptions, 165 yards) from whichever quarterback is under
center, the Bobcats may be in trouble in the passing game. They have been the
most reliable targets for Vick and Sprague this season.

Defensively, Ohio is allowing opponents to more than double its point
production from week to week so far. Through three games, opponents have
scored 78 points (26 ppg average) and have racked up 467.3 combined ypg
against the Bobcats (that’s an average of 6.2 yards per play). This is a
defense that has also forced only one turnover in that span (one interception,
no forced fumbles).

Linebackers Blair Brown and Travis Daugherty each led the team with seven
tackles in the team’s loss to Marshall, and each recorded one tackle for loss.
Fellow linebacker Jovon Johnson paces the squad with 26 total tackles this
season, adding 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup. Brown is second with
23 stops, 1.5 tackles for loss and a half-sack. It’s a strong core of
defensive players, but the secondary needs work considering it’s part of a
unit that allows 294 passing ypg.

After playing against two very strong opponents, Ohio will be looking forward
to returning home and getting an 0-2 Sun Belt team. But Idaho is only 0-2
because it ran up against two teams with exceptionally strong offenses, and
the Vandals haven’t proven to have a defense capable of stopping anyone yet.
This will be the week for Idaho to prove its worth defensively. The Vandals
should get the job done and outplay the Bobcats on the offensive side.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Idaho 34, Ohio 23