Things to watch: Is Idaho running back Anthony Woods prepared for a breakout against Drake?

As Idaho opens its home season in the Kibbie Dome against Drake Saturday at noon, here are three things to watch as the Vandals seek the year’s first win, following losses to Washington State and Indiana by a combined 20 points.

Beware the Upset: When Idaho played in the Sunbelt Conference on two occasions in the 21st Century before departing permanently after the 2017 season, its members were not in the habit of rising up and defeating nationally ranked teams, as Marshall did Notre Dame and Appalachian State did Texas A&M. But the events of last weekend ought to be a cautionary tale for the Vandals. True, today’s home-opening opponent, Drake, is 0-2, but the Bulldogs surprised defending national champion and perennial Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse North Dakota State with a first-quarter touchdown to open the season in a 56-14 loss, and they took Missouri S&T to overtime before falling last week, 17-14. Quarterback Ian Corwin has thrown touchdown passes to running back Dorian Boyland, tight end Tim Nesslage and wide receiver Austin Flax this season. The Drake defense limited Missouri S&T to 165 total yards as linebacker Tanner Pollock led the way with a dozen tackles, and defensive back Nick Cagnetto picked off a Miners’ pass. The Bulldogs have played on the road, played in the 19,000-seat FargoDome, and they played a close game at home. They’ve been around. While Idaho is the clear favorite, the Bulldogs are probably not going to beat themselves. Also, the ebullient former WSU and Iowa State coach Jim Walden is a radio analyst for Drake football. That’s got to be worth some good karma for the Bulldogs.

Is Drake a true test for Idaho’s offensive line? Depth on the line has been an issue for the Vandals since preseason camp, and they had their hands full keeping WSU’s and Indiana’s rush off quarterback Gevani McCoy in the first two games, both close losses. But the Vandals are not facing any more Pac 12 or Big 10 opponents this season, and Drake’s defense may approximate what senior left tackle Logan Floyd and the rest of Idaho’s linemen can expect to see against Big Sky Conference teams the rest of the way.

Is this a breakout game for Anthony Woods? The freshman running back from Palmdale, CA. introduced himself to Idaho fans with 50-yard rushing performances against both WSU and Indiana. Against Drake, of the FCS Pioneer League, can Woods run for more than 100 yards for the first time?

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