Skip to content

On Saturday, Colorado will host Idaho State, from the Football Championship Subdivision.

The Bengals come in after a 47-3 victory against Division II Simon Fraser University, and they’ll look to become the latest FCS team to upset an opponent from the Football Bowl Subdivision. caught up with Madison Guernsey, who covers the Bengals for the Idaho State Journal, to get his thoughts on ISU heading into Saturday’s game.

BuffZone: How are the players and coaches approaching a game where they are heavy underdogs on the road?

Guernsey: Just like any other game, they say. And that’s all they can do. They’ve seen Eastern Washington and Portland State beat Washington State in consecutive years, so they’re going into Boulder with a “why not us” attitude that underdogs have to have in body bag games. But the Bengals aren’t overconfident. They’ve been on the wrong side of FBS-FCS beat downs, like last year’s 52-0 and 80-8 losses at Boise State and UNLV.

BuffZone: Last week, Colorado State was stunned with the fast pace Colorado had on offense. Have the Bengals expressed concern about keeping up with the Buffs in that regard?

Guernsey: Not at all. The Bengals play fast themselves on offense, so the defense sees that kind of pace regularly. ISU has dialed back its offensive tempo slightly this season, but they still rarely huddle or go under center. The Bengals are deep at linebacker and have a solid rotation of defensive linemen to sub in and relieve fatigue. The key on defense for ISU will be containing Sefo Liufau. Against Simon Fraser, which deployed mobile quarterback Miles Richardson, the Bengals’ defensive front was constantly in the backfield. But Richardson often escaped the pressure, extended plays with his legs and found receivers downfield. Colorado’s run-pass option attack could spell trouble for ISU’s talented yet inexperienced linemen.

BuffZone: Offensively, what does Idaho State do well and who are the Bengals that CU has to worry about the most?

Guernsey: The Bengals are deep at running back. Jakori Ford is the starter and has elite big-play ability. He tends to bounce to the perimeter and sprint downfield, but he can also shift his way between tackles and pick up a few yards inside. Redshirt freshman Ty Flanagan was one of Nevada’s top running back recruits two years ago and chose ISU over San Diego State. He hits the hole hard and is an aggressive downhill runner. Redshirt sophomore James Madison is a converted defensive back who’s a bit of a combination of Ford and Flanagan. Michael Dean is a true freshman who’s dwarfed by most players at 5-foot-6. He likes the sideline and is lightning quick.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tanner Gueller has shown loads of potential in four career starts. He picked up his first win last week against Simon Fraser, going 24 of 36 through the air for 338 yards and three touchdowns. He made smart snap decisions and mostly stood tall in collapsing pockets, but his inexperience shows at times. Gueller lost three fumbles last week.

Gueller’s top targets are seniors KW Williams in the slot and Josh Cook at tight end. ISU runs a lot of slip screens and quick routes to the inside. Williams scored on screen plays that went 37 and 63 yards against Simon Fraser.

The Bengals’ glaring weakness on offense is the front five. Injuries forced three first-time starters into the lineup last week, and the inexperience hindered ISU’s offense in all areas. The three injured starters are out again this week.

BuffZone: In your opinion, what does Idaho State need to do this week to become the latest FCS team to pull off an upset of an FBS team?

Guernsey: For one, Idaho State can’t turn the ball over. The Bengals fumbled four times last week (lost three) and turned the ball over on downs once. Mistakes like those will eliminate any chance for an upset on the road. ISU’s offensive line has to protect Gueller and open holes for the crop of running backs. Easier said than done, especially against a defense that’s several steps ahead of Simon Fraser’s.

The Bengals have to play sound in special teams. This sounds silly, but it was a major weakness for ISU a season ago (the Bengals were near the bottom of the national FCS rankings in multiple special teams categories). Solid special teams play was crucial in last week’s win.

The defense has to read Liufau’s tendencies and snuff out option plays. Liufau’s playmaking ability combined with ISU’s aggressive D-line will be a key matchup.

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.