Offensive Struggles Continue vs Eastern Washington

As the Vandal defense continues to impress, the Vandal offense continues to struggle to find itself. Defensively Idaho came about as close to pitching a shutout as you can get, and the offense still could not capitalize on a defensive effort that yielded only 8 points to the Eagles (Idaho lost 8-5). Of the 5 points scored by Idaho, 2 were delivered on the heels of a 1st quarter sack of the Eastern QB in the Eagle's own endzone.<br> <br>

Official Site Write-Up with Stats

On a day when the Vandal defensive effort was stellar, the offense just could not get the job done. Overthrown passes, dropped balls, and a disturbing array of penalties consistently halted every Vandal drive. No single thing seems to be the primary culprit...all of these issues have worked together to render the Vandal offense scoreless in 2 consecutive games. On Saturday, the Vandal defense scored 2 points with a safety, while Special Teams converted a 1st quarter 45 yard field goal attempt (congrats to kicker Brian Pope on the effort). The offense had opportunities in all 4 quarters to score (including a fumble inside the Eagle 20 yard line in the 1st quarter, and a dropped pass at the Eagle 4 yard line in the 4th quarter), but could not convert on any.

From purely a "Fan's Perspective", the situation is particularly frustrating because the obvious improvement in team speed at wide receiver is resulting in more open receivers downfield. But for any of a number of reasons (one of which is certainly inexperience by the QB), the players are struggling to connect consistently.

We will remain hopeful that at some point this fall the offense will begin to click, and that the team will come out on the winning side of these games. RS-Soph QB Michael Harrington has at times in the past 2 games looked impressive, and he gives a nice dimension to the offense with his ability to roll out. But for whatever reason Saturday, he and his receivers often looked like they were not on the same page, as he overthrew the receivers on an alarming number of passes.

One where he did not was a scoring strike to senior Orlando Winston in the 4th quarter that was dropped. If Orlando makes the catch (he had several impressive catches throughout the game) at the 4 yard line after he had twisted up the cornerback and given himself a 10 yard cushion, the discussion today would probably be about how the team dodged a bullet and has alot of work to do.

Instead, most Vandal fans are beside themselves, and for good reason. Its difficult to watch an offense with this much potential struggle with consistency and penalties.

Defensively, enough good can't be said about the overhaul Ed Lamb has engineered in just his second year in Moscow. The unit is playing with alot of aggressiveness, which is translating into impressive pursuit of the ball carrier. The team overall has shown marked improvement in their ability to tackle in the open field, and multiple players are getting to the ball carrier. Against EWU, the Eagles could not outrun our linebackers, safeties and DEs to get outside the tackles effectively. The defensive backfield did a solid job in run support, while Ben Allen (starting in place of Chris Nathan, who was held out for violating team rules), Darryl Murphy, and Simeon Stewart (filling in for Rod Bryant, also held out for violating team rules) had opportunities for interceptions.

It was truely an impressive defensive effort.

The linebacking corp again is looking solid, and is a testament to the outstanding effort 4th year linebackers coach Rich Fisher is doing. Even without field general Patrick Libey (hobbled during the Wazzu game, he played a few series against Eastern), the unit excelled.

Outside linebacker Chad Kodama had a huge game at weakside linebacker, including a QB sack, QB hurry (resulting in an errant pass), and finishing tied for 3rd on the team in tackles (5, with 2 tackles for loss). Mike Anderson showed his versatility, working both at outside linebacker and middle linebacker, and finished tied with Kodama for 3rd in tackles. Particularly impressive is the play of converted safety Nate Nichols, who has seen significant playing time as a strongside (outside) linebacker. He finished with 4 tackles (1 tackle for loss), and generally seemed to be near the ball carrier on most plays. He's played well, and continues to impress.

Equally impressive was the effort put in Saturday by true freshman Chad Pool. Chad led the Vandals in tackles (8), had one tackle for loss, forced a fumble and picked up a fumble, and broke up a pass. All this by an 18 year old true freshman playing safety for the Vandals. In addition to the stats, Chad showed impressive speed and some fearlessness with his tackling. The tackling of the defensive backfield, as a unit, has probably been among the most noticeable improvements made by the defense this year, and Chad is certainly no exception.

New DB coach, former All-Pro Defensive Back Greg Jackson, is obviously making a difference in just his first year in Moscow.

The defense stood tall, even without the services of starting corners Rod Bryant and Chris Nathan, or starting safety Robert Ortega (nursing an injury suffered in the Wazzu game), and a slightly hobbled, but determined, Patrick Libey. All will hopefully be available for the BSU game, and all will be needed, but the depth of this unit is looking good.

The defense has played admirably in the first 2 games. Their depth, confidence and talent are beginning to show through, and will be needed for certain this weekend against the Broncs. If (or more to the point, WHEN) the offense can do the same, this will be a fun team to watch.

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