Vandals fall 14-7 to Utah State

In the conference opener for both schools, Idaho (0-2, 0-1 SBC) lost a much lower scoring game than expected, falling 14-7 to the Aggies (1-1, 1-0 SBC). As the offense continues to struggle to find the pieces and chemistry needed to score more points, the defensive unit showed marked improvement this week forcing 5 USU turnovers and holding the Aggies to just 58 net yards rushing.

For the second week in a row, the Vandals posted just 7 points in a game. Fortunately, the defense appears to be growing more confident in the new schemes implemented last spring and made the going particularly tough for the Aggies this weekend in Logan, Utah. With the season just 2 weeks old, it is starting to look like Idaho is going to need to rely on sound defensive performance until the offense gets untracked.

Offensively, Idaho led the Aggies in time of possession (36:57, compared to 23:03 for USU), net rushing yards (134 for UI, 58 for USU), first downs (16 for UI, 12 for USU), and turnovers (Idaho lost 3, USU lost 5). But USU led Idaho in passing yards (214 for USU vs 101 for UI), and recorded fewer penalties (USU was penalized just 35 yards, while Idaho recorded 7 flags for 102 yards). Aside from time of possession, the total yards recorded by each team was practically identical as both teams struggled to maintain drives and capitalize on turnovers.

The return of Hank Therien to the starting lineup certainly helped bolster Idaho's ability to move the ball on the ground. As the line begins to stabilize in the weeks ahead, Idaho should continue to see improvement in its running game, and hopefully its passing game as well.

Junior quarterback Michael Harrington completed an impressive 74% of his passes in this game, going 17 of 23. He was picked off only once and threw a 12 yard TD pass to sophomore wideout Wendell Octave on an audible in the 2nd quarter. Despite Harrington's impressive accuracy for the day, the passing game netted just 101 yards total. USU's Travis Cox completed 20 passes (just 3 more than Idaho), but yielded 214 yards (Cox recorded a 65% completion percentage). As Harrington and the receiving corp becomes more comfortable with the system, and as the tightend depth chart continues to return to health (sophomores Luke Smith-Anderson still wears a cast on his right hand and Keith Greer continue to work more into the system), these numbers should improve.

Defensively, the new coaching staff's influence certainly seems to be taking effect. The Vandals were particularly stingy in this game as they allowed the Aggies only a 45 yard drive in the first half, and a 66 yarder in the second half. The front seven did an impressive job stuffing the run, allowing USU backs to gain just 94 yards (58 NET yards following 2 Cox sacks resulting in 21 lost yards). Five of Idaho's top 6 tacklers were members of the DL or LB corp, and all played more aggressively this weekend.

Junior defensive end Mike Anderson appears to be gaining more confidence in his new role as a DE, as he recorded 4 tackles and single-handedly resulted in 2 USU turnovers as he forced and recovered a fumble, and also recorded an interception. An impressive performance by just about any measure.

Defensive linemen Jeff Edwards (6-3, 262, Jr) and Siua Musika (6-1, 302, Tr-Fr) were solid as Edwards recorded 2 tackles for loss, while Musika recorded 3 solo tackles, 1 tackle for losses, and forced and recovered a fumble. Idaho desperately needs strong play out of its young defensive line, and the group was strong against USU.

Hats off also to redshirt freshman cornerback Eric McMillan as he hauled in his first interception of the season. He was tied for 3rd on the team with 4 tackles for the day, including 3 solo take-downs.

Although the outcome fell short of a victory, many areas of the team showed nice progress this weekend, particularly the defense. The Vandal D kept Idaho very much in this ballgame from beginning to end and made an impressive showing on the road. Offensively the Vandals still have work to do to eliminate the drive ending errors. Some of the pieces are starting to come together (Bird in particular was impressive at runningback, and the offensive line was much improved), while overall offensive chemistry is still being developed.


LARRY JOHNSON / VandalVenue.com
Vandal Defense huddles on the sideline.


Some statistics to take note of from this game:

OFFENSE

1. Jayson Bird (6-0, 220, True-Fr) led ALL rushers with 94 yards on 17 carries, averaging 5.5 yards per carry with a long of 19 yards. Through 2 games this season Jayson has amassed a team best 171 yards rushing with 1 TD and 1 pass reception for 2 yards.

2. Cliff Mason (5-10, 190, Soph) recorded 60 yards on 19 carries with a long of 7 and an average of 3.1 per carry. Through 2 games Cliff has 65 yards rushing.

3. Rolly Lumbala (6-2, 227, True-Fr) recorded 21 yards on 6 carries, with a long of 7 yards.

4. Idaho gained 176 yards on the ground, but lost 41 in 3 QB sacks.

5. True freshman wide receiver Christian Populis caught one pass for 26 yards.


DEFENSE

1. The defense forced 3 fumbles and recorded 2 interceptions in the game.

2. Middle linebacker Cole Snyder (5-11, 220, Jr) led the Vandals with 10 tackles (9 solo), while also recording 3 tackles for loss (2 sacks) and breaking up a pass.

3. Defensive End Mike Anderson (6-3, 238, Jr) recorded 4 tackles, forced a fumble, recovered the fumble, and recorded an interception.

4. True freshman nose guard Siua Musika (6-1, 302) recorded 3 tackles (all solo), including 1 tackle for loss, forced a fumble, and recovered a fumble. This is the second consecutive game where Siua has forced a fumble that the UI recovered.

5. For the second week in a row, sophomore inside linebacker Robert Davis (6-4, 225) was second on the team in tackles, this week recording 8, including a tackle for a 3 yard loss.

6. Defensively Idaho gave up just 94 yards rushing, and just 58 NET yards rushing, its lowest total in years.



LARRY JOHNSON / VandalVenue.com
Vandal radio broadcast team.




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