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Another big one for the Vandals

Oct. 25—VANDAL NOTES

After a much-needed week off for the No. 9 Idaho football team, it'll have yet another marquee matchup against No. 2 Montana State at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the P1FCU Kibbie Dome (ESPN+).

The Bobcats, along with No. 1 North Dakota State, have been the consensus top-2 teams in the Football Championship Subdivision all season. That trend continued following Montana State's convincing 42-30 win over No. 6 Sacramento State last Saturday.

The Bobcats (6-1, 4-0) had two rushers with more than 100 yards on the ground: junior running back Julis Davis (110) and junior quarterback Tommy Mellott (105).

"We've got a great challenge," Idaho coach Jason Eck said in Monday's news conference. "But with a great challenge comes a great opportunity. I think this Montana State team is excellent. What coach Vigen has done there over the last few years is really impressive. They've been a national power, and it's easy to see why."

Idaho's last result was a 23-21 loss to No. 6 Montana in front of a sold-out crowd at the Kibbie Dome on Oct. 14.

The game was another instant classic between the Little Brown Stein rivals that saw the Vandals (5-2, 3-1) score 14 unanswered points to pull themselves within a possession. But after a failed onside kick attempt and a Gevani McCoy fumble, Idaho fell short.

Here are some notes about Idaho's biggest regular season matchup to date:

A dominant ground attack

The Bobcats have the best rushing offense in the Big Sky, and it's not close.

Montana State tops the conference in yards per game (506.7) as well as rushing yards per outing (325.6).

The Bobcats' ground attack ranks No. 1 in all of Division I, while their 506.7 yards per game on offense rank sixth among DI.

Montana State has three runners that rank in the top 10 in the Big Sky in rushing yards, with senior quarterback Sean Chambers leading the pack with 521 yards on 62 carries and 11 touchdowns.

Drawing attention

Both teams enter this matchup playing in front of a national audience last week.

Over the last two weeks, "Big Sky after Dark" has taken over the waves of ESPN2, with both contests drawing more attention to the FCS.

Last week's Montana State and Sacramento State drew an average 140,000 viewers, according to Sports Media Watch. The previous week, Idaho and Montana nearly doubled that number, drawing an average 240,000 viewers.

The Bobcats and Vandals will be regulated back to the Big Sky's home on ESPN+ for their anticipated matchup this week.

Be there or be square

While the game between the two Big Sky heavyweights won't be on national TV, the two fan bases are expected to pack the Kibbie Dome once again.

According to the Vandals' ticket-selling website, the game is sold out.

Last week against Montana, the Dome was filled to capacity for the first time since a 52-14 loss to Boise State on Nov. 12, 2010.

A quick history

Despite the pair being Big Sky counterparts for years, even prior to the Vandals making the jump to the FBS, they've only played seven times.

Montana State has a 4-3 edge, but the Bobcats have never won a game at the Kibbie Dome (0-2).

The last two meetings have been played in Bozeman, with the last meeting in the Dome being a 20-17 Vandal win on Sept. 1, 2016. Before that, the two combatants hadn't faced off in the Kibbie Dome since a 27-13 win for Idaho on Oct. 15, 1994.

Pixley may be contacted at (208) 848-2290, tpixley@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @TreebTalks.