The Idaho Vandals (3-5, 2-3), who blew a prime chance to reach the .500 mark last week, will try to get back on track as they take on the South Alabama Jaguars (3-4, 1-2) in a Sun Belt Conference matchup Saturday afternoon. South Alabama won the only matchup between the schools with a 34-10 road win as a 3 point favorite on September 27, 2014.
Idaho had their two game win streak snapped with a 55-48 overtime loss to previously winless New Mexico State on the road. South Alabama lost their second straight with a 36-18 defeat to Texas State two weeks ago; they are coming off a bye last week. This one is scheduled to kick off at 3:00 pm ET from Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama and can be seen on ESPN3. South Alabama is currently a 10 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 65.5 points.
Idaho led 30-7 in the opening minute of the second half against New Mexico State but couldn’t hold the lead as New Mexico State wore them down late. The Vandals were up 33-21 after three quarters but gave up four fourth quarter touchdowns to end up in overtime and then gave up the winning score in overtime. Idaho was outgained 641-569 and both teams committed a pair of turnovers in the contest. The Vandals finished with 30 first downs to 24 for New Mexico State while dominating time of possession by a 36:14 to 23:46 margin.
The Vandals put up 268.4 yards per game (31st in the nation in passing offense) through the air and 152.8 yards per game (tied for 91st in the nation in rushing) on the ground. Idaho averages 28.4 points per game but they are miserable when it comes to stopping the opposition as they allow 39.9 points per contest, leaving them sitting 120th in the nation in scoring defense. Matt Linehan has completed 164 of 259 passes for 1,908 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine picks while adding 157 rushing yards on the year. Jake Luton is 37 of 62 for 239 yards and three picks while adding 39 yards and four scores on the ground. Elijhaa Penny leads the Vandals in rushing yards as he has 169 carries for 829 yards and five scores while Aaron Duckworth chips in 52 carries for 179 yards and three touchdowns. Dezmon Epps leads the team with 61 receptions for 762 yards and two touchdowns while Callen Hightower has 18 receptions for 190 yards and Penny has 17 grabs out of the backfield. Buck Cowan (22 grabs, 336 yards, 3 TD) and Deon Watson (22 receptions, 249 yards, 3 TD) are in the mix for targets as well. Callen Hightower (29 receptions, 305 yards, TD) and Penny (20 receptions out of the backfield) are good secondary options. Austin Rehkow has hit 22 of 23 extra points and 17 of 20 field goal attempts this season with a long of 43 yards.
South Alabama has had two weeks to prepare for this contest but they were flat against Texas State. The Jaguars were down 19-3 at the half but couldn’t come up with a second half comeback. A 100 yard return on a missed field goal at the end of the half was a 10 point turnaround: instead of being down 12-6, it was 19-3. South Alabama outgained Texas State 468-424, won the first down battle 22-19 and won the time of possession battle 31:21 to 28:39 in the contest while forcing the only turnover of the game. The problem is that the Jaguars were unable to finish drives; coming up empty repeatedly didn’t pan out.
The Jaguars are 57th in the nation in passing offense as they average 236.3 yards through the air; the team is 102nd in the nation in rushing offense as they average 141.4 yards per game on the ground. South Alabama averages 23.1 points a game but they struggle defensively as they are 115th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing an average of 37.7 points per contest. Cody Clements is the starter at quarterback; he’s hit 113 of 213 throws for 1,593 yards with 10 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. If he goes down, Dallas Davis (five of seven, 54 yards, TD) is next in line. Xavier Johnson is the team’s leading rusher with 75 carries for 503 yards and four touchdowns while Tyreis Thomas contributes 73 carries for 335 yards on the ground. In the passing game, Gerald Everett is Clements’ favorite target with 28 receptions for 405 yards and six scores. Josh Magee (16 receptions, team high 421 yards, 3 TD), D.J. Vinson (14 catches, 116 yards) and Marvin Shinn (10 receptions, 223 yards) are the only other players with more than double digit receptions; no one else has more than eight catches. Aleem Sunanon has kicked all 16 extra points and 10 of 13 field goal attempts with a long of 49 yards.
Idaho is 4-0 ATS in their last four after picking up at least 450 yards of offense, 4-1-1 ATS in their last six after an ATS loss and 4-1 ATS in their last five after picking up at least 200 yards of offense. South Alabama is 5-16 ATS in their last 21 at home, 1-4 ATS in their last five in November, 3-12 ATS in their last 15 overall, 1-7 ATS in their last eight conference games, 1-10 ATS in their last 11 on fieldturf and 0-5 ATS in their last five at home against teams with a losing road record.
The Vandals missed a prime chance for a three game win streak as they failed to hold on to their lead against New Mexico State. Meanwhile, South Alabama hasn’t overwhelmed anyone with their performance of late on either side of the ball. This will be an interesting matchup but it’s tough to give double figures with a team that is struggling; take the points and Idaho here.