So long overdue.
Coming into Saturday's game against New Mexico State, the Vandals were carrying the nation's longest losing streak at 13 games (extending back to last season). But, in front of a boisterous Homecoming crowd in Moscow, Idaho put together a convincing victory, playing well on both sides of the ball.
The game wasn't without drama, starting in the first quarter when Idaho starting quarterback Matt Linehan went down with an injury on a vicious hit to the helmet (fortunately, Linehan was back on the sideline later in the game and exchanged high-fives with Chalich to celebrate the team's first win of 2014). In stepped sophomore Chad Chalich, a starter for the Vandals last fall before suffering a season ending shoulder injury in the sixth game. Saturday Chad showed poise despite it being his first meaningful playing time of the season. He had his ups and downs throughout the game (some miscues, and a pick), but in the end Idaho, under his on-field leadership, came out on top. His confidence was buoyed early in the first half when he connected on a 49-yard touchdown strike to senior Joshua McCain, set-up in-part on a shoulder fake by Chalich to freeze the cornerback, before lofting the pass to McCain who had a couple steps behind two defenders.
It was far from a perfect game. In truth, Idaho had chances to score touchdowns rather than field goals, and could have put this game away early. Clock management and play calling, at times, were also questioned by the ESPN crew calling the game.
But ultimately this was a win -- a solid all-around win that Idaho will hopefully be able to build on after taking a well-earned break on the bye week this coming weekend.
Below are highlights from Idaho's top performers.
Chad Chalich - The sophomore from Coeur d'Alene stepped up big for Idaho Saturday, coming off the bench to lead the Vandals to their first win of the season. Statistically he completed 18-of-32 passes for 192 yards, with one touchdown and one pick on the afternoon. But his ability to run the ball was key (73 yards on 12 carries), complimenting a bruising Idaho rushing attack that amassed a season high 310 yards on the ground. At the end of the game Chalich exchanged high-fives with Linehan as Idaho celebrated a the victory.
Jerrel Brown - The senior tailback had a tremendous game, rushing for 151 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, averaging 6.6 yards per carry. Brown played with exceptional determination (earning good reviews from the ESPN commentators calling the game), especially in the second half when the Vandals focused on keeping the ball on the ground. To punctuate his performance, and operating behind a Vandal offensive line playing one of its best games of the season, Brown sailed into the endzone on a 14-yard run in the fourth quarter to put Idaho up 29-17 on the game's final score.
Mike Marboe - The senior Vandal lineman, Idaho's starting center for four years who hasn't missed a game in his career, went down in the third quarter with what looked like a knee injury as Idaho was setting up to score. Helped off the field, the Idaho line shuffled to fill the void. Fortunately for Idaho, the Team Captain and leader of Idaho's rebuilding offensive line soon made his way back onto the field for the Vandals. With a victory in his sites, it is no surprise that Marboe would find a way to get back into the game, if physically able to perform, to help his team earn this much-needed win.
Joshua McCain - The senior wide receiver continues to impress, both with his hands and his ability to routinely get behind defenders. Saturday was no exception as McCain hauled in 11 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. For the season he's amassed 804 yards receiving and seven touchdowns on the year.
Jayshawn Jordan - Idaho's much maligned defense, and in particular the defensive backfield that has been shredded for much of the season, played their best game of the season Saturday. Junior cornerback Jayshawn Jordan hauled in two picks on the afternoon, the second setting up a Vandal touchdown on the following play. The Aggie offense is far from a juggernaut, but Idaho's defenders needed this game to start building confidence for the second half of the season.