In November 1894, the Idaho Vandals and the Washington State Cougars stepped onto the field to compete in the first Battle of the Palouse. Washington State defeated Idaho 10-0, sparking a now 122-year rivalry.
Last time the two teams faced off in 2013, the Cougars topped the Vandals 42-0.
Since then, the Vandals have revamped their coaching staff and added talented recruits on both sides of the ball.
Current statistics list multiple Vandals at the top of the Sun Belt Conference, including junior quarterback Matt Linehan and senior tight end Deon Watson.
Linehan holds third place in yards per completion (11.67), while Watson sits in fourth in yards per reception (21.6). Senior safety Russell Siavii leads the league in pass breakups, averaging two per game.
Senior kicker Austin Rehkow’s performance has given Idaho the lead in the Sun Belt in net punting (43.00), which ranks them 15th nationally.
Idaho is also the leader in fewest penalties per game.
The rookies have started to make their mark on the field as well.Freshmen quarterbacks Gunnar Amos and Mason Petrino made their collegiate debut against Washington Sept. 10. Amos scored his first touchdown of his collegiate career and Petrino led Idaho’s ground game with 48 yards on nine carries.
All of these performances helped Idaho earn a 1-1 record.
On the other end of the field, Washington State comes to the game 0-2, with losses to Eastern Washington and Boise State.
The Cougars gained 515 yards against the Eagles and earned 32 first downs.
Despite large offensive numbers, the Cougar defense could not stop Eastern Washington from gaining 605 yards and 28 first downs.
The Washington State defense also couldn’t stop quarterback Gage Gubrud from throwing 474 yards and completing five touchdowns.
Against Boise State, the Washington State offense completed 520 yards and 26 first downs — yet the Cougars were unable to stop the Bronco offense.
With Cougar quarterback Luke Falk throwing 480 yards and completing four touchdowns against Boise State, there is no question that Washington State’s offense is strong.
It is just a matter of whether or not the Washington State defense can improve its performance.
With the numbers the Idaho offense has posted in the last two games, it may prove difficult for the Cougar defense to keep up.
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Idaho Vandals only have a 5 percent chance of defeating the Washington State Cougars.
But, if the Vandals can continue the offensive momentum they have built over the last two games, then Saturday could be anyone’s game.
Mihaela Karst can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mihaela_jo