Trojans Romp

Before an announced crowd of 20,151 fans at Movie Gallery Stadium in Troy, Alabama, the Vandals (2-7, 1-4 Sun Belt) lost their 7th game of the season, a 47-7 defeat at Troy University. The Trojans (4-4, 2-2 Sun Belt) are an impressive team, particularly defensively. But the Vandals coughed up 7 turnovers in this one, 2 of which resulted in Troy scores, and also could not finish several scoring drives.<br>

It's not every game that the first drive sets the tone for a game. But in this case, it did.

Idaho received the opening kickoff from Troy. Starting at their own 20 yard line, the Vandals would put together a pass-oriented, meticulous drive the length of the field. Early in the drive, on 3rd down and 14 from the Idaho 16 yard line, junior quarterback Michael Harrington hit senior Bobby Bernal-Wood for 32 yards to the Idaho 48 yard line. True freshman runningback Rolly Lumbala plowed into the line for a 2 yard pickup on the next play. Then Harrington hit sophomore Wendell Octave for 17 yards to the Troy 33 yard line. On the next play, Harrington connected with Bernal-Wood for 14 more yards, giving Idaho 1st and 10 on the Troy 19 yard line. The Vandals had just moved 60 yards in less than 2 minutes against the #1 defense in the conference, and one of the best defenses in the nation, and had entered the redzone.

On 1st and 10, Harrington's pass to Bernal-Wood fell incomplete. Looking to bang away at the line, the Vandals called a running play to Lumbala. Hit behind the line of scrimmage shortly after the handoff, Rolly lost the handle on the ball, and Troy recovered.

But they didn't "just" recover. Junior defensive back Johnny Faulk picked up the loose ball and returned it 59 yards for the touchdown.

It would be a symbol of how the rest of the game would play out for both teams.

Idaho's next 2 possessions yielded no drives of any significant consequence. Troy, on the other hand, put together a length of the field march to go up 13-0 (PAT attempt failed).

On Idaho's next possesion, starting on their own 28, the Vandals went 3-and-out and were forced to punt. Sophomore punter Mike Barrow's punt went 30 yards to the Troy 40, and returner Leodis McKelvin returned it 60 yards to pay dirt. Troy 20, Idaho 0.

The latter part of the 1st quarter saw both offenses sputter, until Idaho put together an 80 yard, 3:54 touchdown drive that included a 23 yard Jayson Bird run, 2 completions to Octave for 18 yards, some hard running by both Lumbala and Bird, and a 28 yard scoring strike to sophomore TE Luke Smith-Anderson.

Down 20-7 to start the 2nd quarter, the Vandals' frustration would just be starting.

Midway through the 2nd quarter, Idaho starting strong safety and punt returner, true freshman D.J. Dykes, received a punt on the Troy 45 and returned it 32 yards to the Troy 13 yard line. But Idaho was flagged on the play for an illegal block, and instead of the Vandals starting on the Troy 13, Idaho started the drive back on the Troy 44.

No problem. The Vandals would drive the ball inside the Troy 5 yard-line, sparked by a 34 yard completion from Harrington to Octave. Two plays netted 3 yards, giving the Vandals 3rd-and-goal from the Troy 5 yard line. But once again Idaho would come away without any points as Harrington tossed a pass into the endzone that was picked off by Troy DB Sherrod May.

Three times Idaho got within striking distance in the 1st half, and twice turned the ball over to the Trojans.

To end the half, Idaho punted to Troy with 1:07 remaining. With nice coverage, Idaho tackled Troy's returner at the Troy 42 (tackle by Antwaun Sherman and Cole Snyder). The effort was lost however as the Vandals were flagged for a personal foul on the play, giving the Trojans 1st and 10 on the Idaho 43. Just like last week, Idaho would give their opponent a shot at scoring late in the half. And once again, the opponent kicked a field goal to go into the locker room with an unexpected boost to their lead.

The second half was, well...brutal. On Idaho's first possession, Harrington, under tremendous pressure, tossed an interception from the 19 yard line that was returned for a Troy score.

On Troy's next possession, the Vandals gave up a 56 yard run by Trojan RB DeWhitt Betterson.

Down 37-7, enter Idaho quarterback #2, redshirt freshman Brian Nooy. On Nooy's first drive of the afternoon, Idaho went 3 and out. On his next possession, Brian hit redshirt freshman wide receiver Ryan Heacock for a 29 yard completion, and drove the Vandals from the Idaho 36 to the Troy 29 yard line (with some tough running by Lumbala). However, from the 29 Nooy threw a pick to end the drive.

Two possessions later, Nooy got Idaho out of its deep-end of the field, hooking up with TE Smith-Anderson for an 11 yard completion to get Idaho to their own 20 yard line. Two plays later, however, Nooy threw an interception which would set-up another Troy TD from the Idaho 26 yard line.

In the 4th quarter, Nooy led Idaho on a march from the Idaho 44 down to the Troy 17 yard line, hitting true freshman Christian Populis for 14 yards, true freshman wideout Desmond Belton for 7 more yards, and senior tightend Willie Sipoloa for 5 yards. Bruiser Lumbala added 10 more yards on the ground, while Antwaun Sherman added another 6 yards rushing. But, with 2nd-and-10 from the Troy 17, Nooy was sacked and fumbled the ball.

It would be the closest Idaho would get to scoring for the remainder of the game.

Offensively, Bird rushed for 47 yards on just 7 carries, with a long of 23. Lumbala carried 15 times for 42 yards, with a long of 10. Sherman carried 6 times for 30 yards with a long of 19.

Through the air Harrington went 10 of 24 for 163 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions (long of 34 yards). Nooy completed 8 of 18 for 98 yards and 3 interceptions. Idaho gave up 6 sacks in the game, and yielded a stunning 9 quarterback hurries.

To say that Idaho QBs had Troy defenders in their face the whole day may be the understatement of the century. Despite this fact, Idaho still had numerous opportunities to score, and ended the day with a reasonable 342 yards of total offense on the day, much of it coming in the 1st half.

But turnovers (5 interceptions, 2 fumbles), particularly those within striking distance of the endzone, were too much to overcome.

Defensively, Idaho gave up a staggering 328 yards on the ground, including 187 to Betterson alone. On the flip side, Idaho registered 5 sacks on starting QB D.T. McDowell, who completed just 3 passes on 12 attempts for 48 yards and a long of 28 yards. Senior cornerback J.R. Ruffin picked off McDowell for Idaho's lone INT. Ruffin also finished the day as Idaho's #2 tackler with 6 tackles (4 solo), a QB sack, and a pass breakup.

Hats off to senior Simeon Stewart who finished the day with 6 tackles, 2 QB sacks and another tackle for loss.

And, for the record, Idaho was penalized 6 times for 66 yards. Troy, on the other hand, was penalized 9 times for 147 yards. Idaho had 7 turnovers, Troy had 1.

Next up, the Vandals return to the Palouse for their last home game of the season, taking on Arkansas State (2-6, 2-2 Sun Belt) at Martin Stadium. It's Homecoming Week for the Vandals, and a welcome break from the road. The ASU Indians are coming off a bye week, recovering after a frustrating 27-24 loss at UL-Lafayette last weekend.

The Vandals then wrap up the season with a Conference finale at North Texas, then head to the islands to take on Hawai'i.

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