Idaho Vandals

Vandals top chore on the Palouse: Stop Cougars’ potent offense

In games against Montana State and Washington, the Idaho defense has allowed 76 points, 231 yards rushing and 551 yards passing. The Vandals have five sacks.
In games against Montana State and Washington, the Idaho defense has allowed 76 points, 231 yards rushing and 551 yards passing. The Vandals have five sacks. The Associated Press

Oh, to be a player on the Idaho Vandals’ defense.

One week after losing 59-14 to an overwhelming Washington team, the Vandals head to Pullman on Saturday (noon, Pac-12 Networks; 630 AM) to take on Washington State and its potent offense.

The Cougars are averaging 35 points and 449 passing yards through two games, although both resulted in losses (Eastern Washington 45-42 and Boise State 31-28).

“They’ve got a good quarterback and they’ve got really good receivers,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “They’re going to score points.”

But limiting the number of points the Cougars score is likely the only way the Vandals, who are 27-point underdogs, will be able to stay in the game.

“We definitely take this as a big challenge,” said sophomore linebacker Tony Lashley, who is tied for the team lead with 15 tackles. “We know we have to tackle well and swarm to the ball. They’re really quick on the edges. … Overall, we just have to show up to play.”

Senior safety Russell Siavii has the lone interception for the Vandals through two games. He said it will be important to force Cougars quarterback Luke Falk into making mistakes. Falk has thrown eight touchdowns and two interceptions.

“(Interceptions) are big game-changers for us,” Siavii said.

The opportunities will certainly be there. The Cougars’ Air Raid attack featured 123 passes in its first two contests.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lashley said.

Fortunately for the Vandals, their defensive coordinator has. Mike Breske was previously in the same role at Washington State.

“It’s nice to have someone who has been in the system over there,” Siavii said. “I feel like we have a good game plan going in.”

The last time these two teams played a Battle on the Palouse, it was not much of a battle: Washington State won 42-0 in 2013. Needless to say, Petrino hasn’t seen much value in revisiting that contest.

“To be honest, we haven’t really talked about that game,” he said. “They’re a whole different team; we’re a whole different team.”

But the fact remains that these two schools are less than 8 miles apart. So that proximity brings an added element to Saturday’s game, the 92nd meeting between the two programs.

“It’s just like high school,” Siavii said. “Those teams across the street, you want to go play them. It’s nice to have a little rivalry.”

And despite the lopsided score against Washington, Petrino said his defense improved in the second half, a promising sign for Saturday.

“You played that good of a team and you had nine third-and-shorts,” he said. “In the second half, we were 4-for-4 on them. Unfortunately, in the first half we were 0-for-5, so that’s just something we can keep building on. … Just go out there and compete our tails off and try to get a win.”

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