The last time Idaho faced Portland State on the football field, the Vikings blanked the Vandals 24-0 in Portland, Ore., in 2019.
It’s a game still fresh in the minds of many UI players and coaches, and one Idaho will want to avenge at 2 p.m. today in the Vandals’ homecoming game at the Kibbie Dome.
It’s a cliche “must-win” game for Idaho for a multitude of reasons — the season so far mostly has gone by the book with losses to two Football Bowl Subdivision teams and a top-10 team in the Football Championship Subdivision, but a loss here would drop UI to 1-4.
It’s also not only homecoming, but the first time many travelling Vandal fans will get a glimpse of Idaho basketball’s new Idaho Central Credit Union Arena next door, so there’s a bit of a different feel for this one. A ribbon cutting at the arena Friday was part of the weekend’s festivities.
“It’s a big homecoming game,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “We’ve been very successful at homecoming. We have a good team coming here, and we’ve got to make sure we know every last detail of what’s going on in this game plan and be ready to play.”
Like Idaho, Portland State (2-3, 1-1 Big Sky) also owns a pair of losses to FBS teams and a top-10 FCS team (No. 10 Montana State) this season. The Vikings are coming off a 20-13 win Oct. 2 against Southern Utah.
Petrino says PSU’s offense starts with its quarterback, Davis Alexander. The senior is 10th in the FCS with 1,405 passing yards at a 58 percent clip. He has eight touchdowns to six interceptions and also has 111 rushing yards and two scores on the ground.
“I think their quarterback is a really good player,” Petrino said. “It seems like he’s been there forever. He runs around, makes plays. He’s a very, very competitive kid.”
The Vikings allow 28.6 points per game — less than a field-goal difference from UI’s 31.3.
Petrino said PSU runs a unique flex defense similar to what his team ran when he was an assistant at Utah State for three years in the late ’90s. The scheme can confuse blockers, he said.
With a shoulder injury to freshman quarterback CJ Jordan early in UI’s 27-20 loss to UC Davis last week, Idaho will start senior Mike Beaudry. Beaudry is completing passes at a 64.2-percent rate and owns two touchdowns to one interception, but he’s only averaging 10 yards per completion.
The Vandals received an offensive boost from a pair of newcomers last week in sophomore receiver Terez Traynor (10 catches, 131 yards) and freshman running back Eli Cummings (125 yards, 8.3 average).
“Coach’s emphasis this week is that preparation is the key,” Traynor said, “seeing that preparation was the key last week with all of us practicing hard, putting in the time … it didn’t pay off with the win, but we see how it’s paying off, so we’re going to do the same thing this week.”
Package quarterback Zach Borisch also had his biggest game of the season, rushing for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Continuing to spread the ball around on offense and limiting big plays from Alexander on defense will be UI’s biggest keys this week.
Idaho hasn’t lost a homecoming game since falling to Louisiana-Lafayette in 2017, and it hasn’t played at the Dome since beating Simon Fraser in its opener Sept. 4.
“We’re super excited to get home,” Petrino said. “It seems like it was last season (when) we played at home.”
Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, email@example.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.