Just five games into the 2018 season, the Idaho State football team has already matched its win total from all of 2017.
Coach Rob Phenicie doesn’t want his Bengals to get ahead of themselves.
“We could very easily end this thing up 4-7 again,” Phenicie said. “So they know that we need to continue to work and fight and scratch and claw for everything that we get.”
The Bengals (4-1, 3-0 Big Sky) travel to No. 19 UC Davis (4-1, 2-0) on Saturday looking to maintain their share of first place in the Big Sky Conference standings with No. 3 Eastern Washington (5-1, 3-0).
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Idaho Statesman
Kickoff is 5:05 p.m. MT at Aggie Stadium in Davis, California, and the game will be streamed online at Pluto.tv. The Aggies lead the all-time series 3-0, including a 56-17 victory last season.
“I think they’re easily one of the top two teams in the conference,” Phenicie said. “It’s going to be a tough game going out there to play in Davis.”
UC Davis might be thinking the same thing about the Bengals.
Idaho State is 4-1 for the first time since 2000 and 3-0 in Big Sky play for the first time since 1981. The Bengals are receiving votes in both the FCS media and coaches’ polls. Quarterback Tanner Gueller was named the STATS FCS National Offensive Player of the Week following a career performance last week against in-state rival Idaho in which he threw for 492 yards and a school-record eight touchdowns.
It’s unfamiliar but welcome territory for a team that was picked to finish 12th out of 13 teams in the conference’s preseason poll.
“We’ve worked really hard, and to get a little bit of (recognition) is neat, but that’s kind of all in the rear-view mirror now as far as it’s Monday of another game week,” Gueller said. “Football is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sport, and whether you throw eight touchdowns or eight interceptions last Saturday, that’s not going to help you or deter you the next week. So it’s on to UC Davis now and what we can do to game-plan for them and prepare for hopefully another win.”
UC Davis has the top passing offense in the Big Sky at 349.2 yards per game, and senior Jake Maier is No. 7 among FCS quarterbacks with 1,578 passing yards this season. The Aggies are enjoying their best start to a season since 2004, and their first 2-0 conference record since joining the Big Sky in 2012.
“Last year before anybody got in their seat it was 21 to nothing, and we can’t let that happen again,” Phenicie said. “That game last year for us was arguably our most poorly performed game of the season. ... We have to come out and play a lot better than we did last year.”
Vandals eye first road win
Idaho plays its second straight road game and fourth of the season when it travels to Montana State (3-2, 1-1 Big Sky) on Saturday.
Kickoff is 2 p.m. MT at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, and the game will be televised on ROOT Sports Northwest.
Saturday’s matchup will have an Idaho flavor, and not just because of the Vandals (2-3, 1-2).
Bobcats coach Jeff Choate is an Idaho native and former Boise State assistant, and assistants Matt Miller and Byron Hout both played for Boise State.
There also are four former Idaho high schools players on the Bobcats’ roster: QB Tucker Rovig (Mountain View), DE Todd Payne (Idaho Falls), OL Zach Redd (Rocky Mountain) and OL Connor Wood (Rocky Mountain).
Idaho leads the all-time series with Montana State 25-17-1. Their most recent meeting was a 20-17 Idaho win to open the 2016 season. Idaho has not won in Bozeman, however, since 1991.
BYU benches Eagle High grad
BYU climbed as high as No. 20 in the AP Top 25 this season, but the Cougars have since lost back-to-back games to fall to 3-3 overall.
Freshman quarterback Zach Wilson will start in place of senior Tanner Mangum, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, when the Cougars host Hawaii at 8:20 p.m. MT on Saturday (ESPN2). Mangum, a graduate of Eagle High, started the first six games.
The Cougars are a perfect 9-0 at LaVell Edwards Stadium against the Rainbow Warriors (6-1) and have a 22-8 edge in the series.
“They were one of the first teams to play this year, and they were definitely putting up points,” BYU DB Chris Wilcox said. “They’re looking like a different team than last year, so we can’t sleep on them or anything like that.”
C of I set for rematch with Montana Tech
Fresh off its first win of the season, The College of Idaho plays its second game of the season against Montana Tech at 1 p.m. Saturday in Butte, Montana.
The 25th-ranked Orediggers (3-2, 3-2 Frontier) beat the Yotes 36-16 on Sept. 1 in Caldwell, but the rematch should be much more competitive.
The game was tied 10-10 at the half and Yotes (1-5, 1-4) starting quarterback Darius-James Peterson was limited to just three snaps due to illness.