Idaho (1-6) at Louisiana Tech (5-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 20, 7:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Joe Aillet Stadium (30,600) -- Ruston, Louisiana. Television: ESPN Regional, MASN. Home Record: Idaho 1-2, LaTech 2-1. Away Record: Idaho 0-4, LaTech 3-0. Neutral Record: Idaho 0-0, LaTech 0-0. Conference Record: Idaho 1-1, LaTech 0-0. Series Record: Louisiana Tech leads, 5-2.
GAME NOTES: The last team in the Western Athletic Conference to finally break into their league schedule, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs try to bounce back from a heart-breaking loss as they entertain the Idaho Vandals at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston on Saturday night.
Last Saturday night, the Bulldogs filled in an open date that they originally had on their schedule with a make-up game versus Texas A&M that was initially to be the season opener for both schools but had to be scratched due to potential weather issues. As a result, LaTech and the Aggies met up in Shreveport with both programs being nationally ranked, but only A&M maintained a spot in the Top-25 thanks to a 59-57 triumph.
The loss for the Bulldogs was the first of the season after opening with five straight victories.
As for the Vandals, they are at the other end of the spectrum in terms of their level of success so far in 2012. The team dipped to 1-1 in conference play last weekend with a 38-7 loss at Texas State, one of the newest additions to the WAC. The lone win for Idaho was a 26-18 triumph over New Mexico State at home earlier this month which means the team is still searching for its first road victory since defeating San Jose State, 32-29, on Nov. 5, 2011.
LaTech owns a 5-2 advantage in the all-time series with the Vandals, thanks in part to a 24-11 win in Moscow last season.
Up against the Bobcats in San Marcos, Idaho's offense struggled in a big way as Dominique Blackman converted 15-of-28 passes for 161 yards and was intercepted once. Running back James Baker accounted for the lone touchdown for the visitors on a three-yard run in the second quarter, after which Texas State scored 24 straight points to put the game out of reach.
While the Vandals were generating just 104 net rushing yards, the defense for the squad was giving up a hefty 337 yards and four touchdowns. Unable to force a single turnover, Idaho was credited with a mere two tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Since delivering three sacks against three straight opponents, the Vandals have recorded only two quarterback takedowns in the last three games total and because of that the squad's average of only 1.57 sacks per game overall ranks them 87th in the country at the moment.
Unable to slow down opponents with an regularity, the Vandals are now 112th in the nation in points allowed (38.0 ppg).
Offensively, Blackman has been slow to warm up with his new team and while he has had a total of three games with at least 300 yards passing, he has followed each of those up with games in which he has thrown for less than 175 yards each time, twice failing to throw a single TD.
With a rushing attack that accounts for only 86.0 ypg (115th), it should come as little surprise that this team is delivering just 14.3 ppg which is ahead of only two other teams tracked by the NCAA at the FBS level that are not reclassifying or provisional this season.
In stark contrast to Idaho's inability to produce points, the Bulldogs are beasts in that department, even when they lose. In one of those instances where a failed PAT comes back to haunt a team, that's exactly what happened to LaTech in the second quarter against a Texas A&M squad that ran out to a 27-0 lead. Not only did the Bulldogs have their PAT blocked, it was returned the length of the field for two points by the Aggies, a three-point swing that proved to be crucial in a two-point final.
Colby Cameron brought the hosts back by throwing for 450 yards and five touchdowns, with Quinton Patton tying a school record with 21 receptions, leading to 233 yards and four scores as he was named the WAC Offensive Player of the Week even though his team lost.
It would be convenient to lay all the blame for last week's defeat on the defense, allowing A&M's Johnny Manziel to throw for 395 yards and three touchdowns and run for another 181 yards and three scores, but both sides were lacking in that department for sure.
Make no mistake, with the Bulldogs scoring their highest point total in a single game in more than a decade, the team is now averaging an incredible 53.8 ppg which is tops in the entire nation. Unfortunately, head coach Sonny Dykes seems to be alright with running a quick-strike offense and allowing opponents to score their own share of points, seeing as how the team giving up an unhealthy 39.7 ppg (114th in the country).
This might be one of the only games this season where the Bulldogs don't have to worry that much about the competition returning fire on the scoreboard. With LaTech used to reaching the end zone on drives that last less than two minutes, the Vandals have to be careful not to let this meeting get too ugly, too fast.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana Tech 56, Idaho 17
10/17 10:44:33 ET