Vandals still searching for answers

IDAHO'S STRUGGLE TO FIND A WINNING BALANCE continued Saturday afternoon after South Alabama (2-2, 1-1 Sun Belt) jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead, held off an Idaho (0-4, 0-2 Sun Belt) charge in the third quarter, then cruised to a 34-10 win. There was a boisterous Vandal crowd at this Dad's Weekend game, but for the first weekend this season the Vandal offense gave the faithful little to cheer.

The Idaho came into this contest averaging almost 30 points per game in their first three contests. In those games the Vandal defense became much maligned for giving up too many points too early, coming out on the wrong side of several shootouts.

Saturday, the Vandal defense gave the offense a chance. In the first half, the Vandal defense gave up just one touchdown and two field goals (one as time expired going into halftime). The other South Alabama touchdown came on a pick six of Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan.

In the second half, USA scored on their first possession when the quarterback saw a crease and ran untouched for the score. From there, the Vandal defense picked off a pass (Chris Edwards), recovered a fumble (Jayshawn Jordan), and almost picked off another pass (Marc Millan with the near pick). Twice they put Idaho's offense in excellent position to score. The Vandals capitalized on one for a touchdown, then missed a field goal for the other.

It wasn't perfect by any stretch, but the Vandal defense did its part to force punts, force field goals, and provide turnovers.

But for the first time this season, it was the Vandal offense's turn to struggle. In the second half the Vandals went on a lengthy 17 play drive that chewed significant time off the clock. But with opportunities to punch it in for the much-needed touchdown, Idaho couldn't and had to settle for a field goal.

Against what is reported to be a good defensive line, Idaho's offensive line struggled, giving up seven sacks (almost doubling their previous season high of four), and gaining just 30 yards net rushing. Granted, that includes the 70 yards lost in sacks on the afternoon. But Idaho's leading rusher this week was Elijhaa Penny with 24 net yards on seven carries, followed by Kris Olugbode with 21 yards on five carries. Idaho's inability to establish a running game, combined with the 20-0 halftime deficit, forced Idaho to go one-dimensional. And going one-dimensional wasn't going to work against a defense like USA.

This weekend the Vandals hit the road to take on a good Texas State team in San Marcos. The Bobcats are 2-2 on the season, and are coming off a 37-34 win at Tulsa. Prior to that TSU played a nail-biter at Illinois in a game where they led for much of the contest. They've scored 37 (@ Tulsa), 35 (@ Illinois), 21 (Navy), plus hung 65 on Arkansas Pine-Bluff. The Vandal defense will face an enormous task in slowing down this Bobcat offense, while Idaho's offense must get back to their scoring ways - and quickly.

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