Today, the University of Idaho Vandals travel to Beaumont, Texas, to take on the Cardinals of Lamar University. The game will kick off at 7 PM local time at Provost Umphrey Stadium and will be broadcast on ESPN+. Fans of both teams have something to look forward to with the new season kicking off tonight.
Idaho enters the game fresh off a playoff appearance last season, their first since 1995, and their first post-season matchup of any kind since their 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl win. Second-year head coach Jason Eck is quickly building the program up, taking a 4-7 program and flipping it around, going 7-5 with losses to two power-five programs and a heartbreaking loss at Southeastern Louisiana in the playoffs. The Vandals return Jerry Rice award-winning quarterback Gevani McCoy, who threw for 2,700 yards and 27 touchdowns against 7 interceptions, along with three touchdowns. Returning as well are running backs Anthony Woods, who totaled almost 900 yards in 2022, as well as 400-yard rusher Elisha Cummings. The most dangerous offensive weapon for the Vandals last season, Hayden Hatten also returns to the lineup with two years of eligibility remaining. The Junior from Arizona totaled 83 catches for 1,209 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, leading the team in all three categories and earning a spot on the FCS 1st team All-American list and this years Big Sky Conference Preseason offensive MVP. Returning as well is the Vandals’ other 1,000-yard receiver, Jermaine Jackson.
There are several names to watch on defense for Idaho, including cornerback Marcus Harris, who was an FCS sophomore All-American in 2022. The transfer from Oregon State totaled 53 tackles, 2 interceptions, a forced fumble and recovery, and a blocked kick. Harris returns and will be the cornerstone of the defensive backfield. Up front, the Vandals have some rebuilding to do. Leading sacker Kemari Munier-Bailey and leading tackler Fa’Avae Fa’Avae have both moved on from the program, with the former transferring to Fresno State and the ladder entering the NFL draft.
Lamar fans are looking forward to new head coach Peter Rossomando taking over. After a disappointing 2022 campaign which saw Lamar win only one game, Rossomando comes over from Charlotte and is ready to rebuild the program. He served as the OL coach at Charlotte for the past two seasons before taking over as interim head coach for four games to end 2022. Lamar has a tricky quarterback situation to figure out, with five quarterbacks in the running: sophomores Mike Chandler and Jakolby Longino, transfer Robert Coleman, and freshman Aiden McCown and Kendric Malone. Leading rusher Khalan Griffin and leading receiver Sevonne Rhea also return for the Cardinals.
On defense, the Cardinals lost leading tackler Tyler Jackson, but retain second-leading tackler Blake Gotcher as well as Caleb Williams, who led the team in sacks with 2.5 last season. This is overall an experienced unit, but will need a lot of plays to go their way in order to stop the potent Vandals offense.
Stay tuned for the post-game article and recap!