[Vandal] Vandals Kick Off Conference Slate At No. 8 UC Davis

robiegruss at aol.com robiegruss at aol.com
Sat Oct 2 11:39:42 PDT 2021

>From the Daily NewsMoscow, IdahoSaturday, October 2, 2021
Vandals Kick Off Conference Slate At No. 8 UC Davis

By Stephan Wiebe
The last time the UC Davis and Idaho football teams battled just seven months ago, the rag-tag Vandals were missing nine starters because of COVID-19 and injuries.
Still, Idaho led heading into the fourth quarter before the Aggies put together two long drives to take the lead and win 27-17.
So it’s no surprise Idaho coach Paul Petrino and the Vandals (1-2) have circled today’s game since fall camp started. Game planning for the Aggies (4-0, 1-0 Big Sky) goes back further than the past two weeks — although the bye week helped, Idaho has been preparing for UC Davis since Day 1.
Idaho and UC Davis kickoff at 7 p.m. tonight (ESPN+) at UC Davis Health Stadium in Davis, Calif.
“We’ve been working for a long time,” Petrino said. “Our guys are going to feel really good about the game plan and understand it and go out there and play with a clear mind and play fast and play well.”
The storyline going into this game is the mystery surrounding the quarterback position on both teams. Petrino has stayed mum on who will start between senior Mike Beaudry and freshman CJ Jordan. The two have split time this season by design with the plan all along to name a starter against UC Davis.
Through three games, Beaudry owns an edge in experience and in the passing stats (39-of-60, 359 yards, 2 TDs), while Jordan is the better rusher and big-play producer (team-high 121 rushing yards, 71-yard scoring pass in opener).
The starter will be revealed at game time, Petrino said.
The Aggies are being just as secretive.
Starter Hunter Rodrigues has shined in UC Davis’ undefeated start to the season, which includes wins against Tulsa of the Football Bowl Subdivision and nationally-ranked Weber State, but he suffered a concussion Sept. 25 against the Wildcats. Capable backup Miles Hastings entered and led the Aggies to a go-ahead touchdown drive in that win.
“They give us their depth chart in alphabetical order, so no reason we need to give them a bunch of stuff,” Petrino said.
The coach said he’s most impressed with an Aggies’ defense that is allowing just 16 points per game and already has 14 players with double-digit tackles. Rangy defensive backs Chris Venable and Jordan Perryman are the Aggies’ top tacklers, combining for 40 on the season.
“They’ve been playing really good defense,” Petrino said. “Nobody has scored many points on them, they’ve held people, so first thing is we’ve got to stay in front of the chains … basically, we can’t have penalties.”
Offensively, Idaho will try to slow the Aggies’ five-headed monster at running back, led by junior Ulonzo Gilliam and his 361 yards and four scores.
“Offensively, their running back, I still think it starts with him,” Petrino said. “I think he’s a really good player.”
Idaho is expected to be much healthier than the last time they played UC Davis when they were missing nine starters, and two weeks ago against Oregon State when five key players were absent.
Big defensive tackle Noah Elliss, who drew eyes at practice from a pair of NFL scouts this week, will be back after missing the OSU game. He’s tied for fourth on the team in tackles despite missing a game and playing a position that’s not known for racking up a ton of tackles.
Another key returner is sophomore receiver Hayden Hatten, who leads the team in catches (12), receiving yards (200) and receiving touchdowns (3). Starting running back Roshaun Johnson and tight end Connor Whitney also could return, as could center Chad Bagwell — who is yet to see the field this season.
UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins mentioned Idaho’s front seven on defense and its diversity on offense as game-plan items for his players. Hawkins is 9-1 against Idaho as an assistant and head coach going back to 1998 as an assistant at Boise State.
“Very physical on defense, really good crew — physical, fast, aggressive,” Hawkins said. “Paul does an amazing job offensively scheming up a lot of personnel groupings, formations, things you gotta get ready for.”
Petrino and Hawkins each have noted anything can happen in the Big Sky on any given week — something shown by the conference’s plethora of upsets of FBS opponents so far this season.
“We’re going to lay it all on the line this game,” Petrino said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we win the game and give our kids the best chance to win.”

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