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Opponent Defense Preview: Idaho

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The Huskies face off against a Palouse team whose name doesn’t rhyme with “Lugers.”

Time for your weekly rundown on the opposing defense. Today we’ve got the Idaho Vandals.

Situated in cute lil’ Moscow, USSR Idaho, the Vandals’ most recent defensive performance limited Montana State to 305 total yards, 110 of which came on the rush.

The Idaho defense in 2015 gave up 487 yards per game, good for (or not so good for) 117th in the country. They also gave 42 points per game and that increased to a whopping 53 points per game against Power 5 opponents. It’s been implied in some of the UWDP comments that I swear too much, but holy sh*%.

Personnel

The Vandals tend towards a two-gap scheme on the line but will on occasion go with a more traditional 4-3. Just like the Dawgs, they also utilize a Buck to supplement the rush.

The rush defense gave up 6.3 yards per rush and, perhaps more notably, 39 rushing touchdowns on the year. Their rushing yards per game of 273 was ranked - wait for it - 125th in the country.

On to the linebackers, where Idaho’s top returning tackler resides. Kaden Ellis is a rising sophomore SAM from Salt Lake City who should in all likelihood continue to improve. He should probably have a productive day, especially since the opponents’ rush often makes its way into the linebackers’ territory. Ellis will be a reliable tackler, although that is symptomatic of the line’s difficulty in stopping the run by itself.

Further, of the six interceptions in 2015, three of them came from linebackers. Without thinking too hard about that, and with the below average rush defense, I would be inclined to say that Idaho’s defensive priority revolves around the pass.

Speaking of, the secondary seems like it should be their relative strength. Although most of the above metrics don’t reflect a fearsome platoon, last season’s passing defense surrendered 22 pass touchdowns and averaged a respectable 214 yards per game which was 53rd in FBS. They should be even better this year since the defensive backs return four starters - and their first stringers are all seniors. Naturally it makes sense that this unit should be the leaders of the defense both in maturity, leadership, and stats.

That showed in week one; against Montana State (and in Jeff Choate’s first game as head coach for the Bobcats) the Vandals only allowed 195 passing yards. Nobody’s expecting them to resist Washington’s aerial attack to such an extent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them zone in on Browning’s passing game and are more successful against that than in stopping Gaskin.

Bottom Line

For those of you concerned about Washington’s inability to get a solid running game going against Rutgers, this should be the matchup where you actually get worried if they can’t have success on the ground. Idaho’s schemes seem to clearly prioritize limiting passing options and their personnel strength exaggerates the disparity between the effectiveness of the defensive backfield and line. The 3-4 that they often run should give the Huskies room to reinvigorate their rushing attack and I fully expect to see a lot more success where that’s concerned.

With that in mind, Washington’s offensive attack will likely look a lot more like 2015 than how they looked against Rutgers; their rushing game will probably be emphasized a lot more, just like last season. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see a couple more long bombs to Ross or McClatcher and multiple more throws that technically fall under the "deep ball" category of 20 yards or more. This is due to the fact that the mid-level zones will likely be clogged with linebackers if they repeat the schematic tendencies of 2015, making shorter to mid-range passes (digs, inward curls, slants, etc.) more risk than they’re probably worth.

And with that in mind...

Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.