PROVO — Troy Warzocha covers Idaho football for the Lewiston Tribune and knows the team as well as anyone. We gave Warzocha five questions to gain better insight on BYU's opponent this Saturday.
1. What has led to Idaho's struggles this season and what's the current state of the program?
Many of Idaho's problems this season can be traced back to a lack of leadership. At the top, it became evident early in the season that former coach Robb Akey had lost the team. While many will cite Idaho's 70-28 loss to Louisiana Tech as the breaking point, I actually think that Idaho's 38-7 loss to a Texas State program that is in its first year at the Football Bowl Subdivision level was far more damaging.
To say that the program is in shambles would be very generous. As it stands now, the Vandals have no conference, no permanent head coach and no schedule beyond the 2013 season. Not many things are going right for this program right now — on or off the field.
2. How has the team reacted to new coach Jason Gesser and how likely is he to be retained as head coach after this season?
The team seems to be reacting well to Gesser. The on-field discipline was much improved and the team showed signs of life for nearly three full quarters last week against a very good San Jose State group.
I think he's unlikely to be retained as head coach because of his inexperience. Idaho athletic director Rob Spear has made it clear that he wants to hire someone with head coaching experience. Unfortunately, Gesser doesn't fit that criteria.
3. Talk about Idaho on offense. What type of offense does it run and who are the playmakers?
For the most part, Idaho runs everything out of a single-back set. However, against San Jose State, the team ran the ball more than it has all season. The Vandals also ran the hurry-up for the first time in a long time last week. I'd expect that to continue against BYU.
If senior quarterback Logan Bushnell can get the ball to his receivers, they can make plays. Mike Scott, Jahrie Level, Najee Lovett, Justin Veltung and Roman Runner can all make a difference on the offensive side.
4. Same question on defense
Defensively, Idaho generally runs a base 4-3. The Vandals did use some nickel packages against the pass-happy Spartans last week as well. As far as key players, defensive end Benson Mayowa is the team's best pass rusher, linebacker Robert Siavii is hitting his stride and free safety Gary Walker can deliver the big hit in the secondary.
5. What does Idaho hope to accomplish this week against BYU short of a win? Is there any scenario where you believe Idaho can come out of Provo with a win?
I think Idaho would be pleased with two competitive quarters against what is obviously a very good BYU team. Gesser wants to see the offense move the ball a bit and will hope that Bushnell continues to build chemistry with Idaho's stable of receivers.
The only way Idaho wins is if BYU completely forgets how to play football.