Weekend Flashback: Gritty Vandals Fall To MSU

It's hard not to be proud of the Vandals effort against Michigan State, including that of linebacker DAVID VOBORA who posted 16 tackles in the game, tops in the WAC and third in the nation. Idaho was able to silence the 70,000 Spartan fans a few times, but ultimately were overcome by the heavily favored home team. "Blowout" was the game-day headline. It was anything but that.

Michigan State showcased a size advantage at every position, but it did not phase the Idaho Vandals. They came to play. The Vandals showed no fear of the Big Ten team, and from the first whistle blown, they played gritty, gutsy, hard-hitting football. Not to say they didn't make mistakes. There were plenty. The passing game continues to search for a go-to playmaker, the defensive backfield showed their youth at times, and the late face mask penalty proved fatal.

More importantly this team looked more focused, prepared, and ready for this game than any Idaho team in recent years. The struggles of playing so many freshman and first year Vandals the last two years is starting to pay off, and it was evident Saturday in East Lansing.

Below is a position-by-position recap of last Saturday's action.

QB Steve Wichman
17-31-155, 1TD, 1INT
QB – Steve Wichman is everything you want in a quarterback - strong arm, good pocket presence, and has the respect of the team. But Saturday showed what can happen when even a solid quarterback appears to get caught up trying to force something to happen. Overall Wichman had an excellent game, especially considering the heavy pressure he was under all afternoon. But in a game of inches, one miscue can cause a huge momentum swing, and that happened momentarily Saturday when a pass to tightend Luke Smith Anderson in heavy coverage was picked. The ball was returned deep into Idaho territory, and the Spartans walked away with a TD on a short drive. Other than this pick, Wichman had a good outing in his first game directing Erickson's spread offense against a stout MSU defense. He hit receiver Lee Smith in the endzone on the run on a perfect out pattern for a TD, he had one pass into endzone dropped, and he had another long pass over the middle dropped. It could easily have been a tremendous afternoon for the senior. More importantly though, neither Wichman nor the offense in general lost composure as a result of blown plays. Idaho teams in the recent past would have likely folded in the wake caused by MSU's 2nd quarter pick and score, but Saturday the Vandals regrouped and made it a ballgame until the end.

PT: Wichman
17-31-155 yards / 1TD / 1INT

RB – The runningbacks had a strong debut. Jayson Bird is a bruising, powerful running back who explodes into holes. His 88 yard effort complimented the powerful surge of the offensive line, capped off by a 3 yard scoring run in which he blew through two of Michigan State's top defenders for the touchdown. The ESPN commentators compared his bruising running style to NFL great John Riggins, and by the second half were spending significant time analyzing his power running game and discussing how difficult it is to "get an angle on him." Brian Flowers had a nifty and shifty 12 yarder, while also adding 3 for 21 yards receiving. Rolly Lumbala gained 3 yards on a third and two on his one carry. Both Flowers and Lumbala returned a kickoff 14 yards which represents the group well. It would be nice to see a 20 or 30 yard run out of this group, and as the team settles into the offense we expect to see a few. Blocking was solid, although MSU threw a curveball at Lumbala by rushing two his direction with one getting through and forcing a fumble out of Wichman, which almost led to a turnover. The ball was recovered by an alert Jade Tadvick and the drive continued.

PT: Bird/Flowers/Lumbala
28-101-1td / 3-21 receiving

RB Brian Flowers
21 yards receiving, 7 carries

WR Lee Smith
3 receptions, 58 yards, 1TD
WR – If converted cornerback senior DeAngelo Ramsey brings in the two long balls thrown his way Saturday, there would be at least one touchdown on his stat sheet and another huge gainer (and possibly another TD) today. Early in the game he ran by and behind MSU's secondary (impressive) and gained separation on the DB. As the two went for the ball their legs got tangled and the DB went down. Had Ramsey held on for the grab (granted it would have been a tough grab, but he got his hands on it momentarily) it would have been Ramsey sprinting to the endzone alone. On the second potential big gainer, Ramsey again blew by a Spartan defender enroute to the endzone where he was unable to haul in the pass on a play that was ultimately flagged for defensive pass interference in the endzone. These two plays show how difficult he is to contain, and that he has all the physical tools to be an outstanding receiver. When he hauls in these passes, he will be a weapon for the offense. Lee Smith led the Vandal receivers, gathering 3 receptions for 58 yards and a TD that quieted 70,000 Spartan fans. Max Komar and Wendell Octave both caught 3 passes for 24 and 17 yards respectively. Komar had a lot of balls thrown his way, and the walkon redshirt freshman made a couple impressive grabs coupled with a couple key drops. This group shows promise, but dropped balls continues to stall their production.

PT: Smith / Ramsey / Komar / Octave
10 - 105 -1td / 3-25 rushing

TE – Luke Smith Anderson and Keith Greer bring veteran leadership, physicality and reliable hands to the table. Smith Anderson would grab 4 for 29 yards while Greer repeatedly paved the way for the running backs with punishing force. The Vandal tightends are solid. All that is needed is a touchdown out of the group, and they grade out A. Vandals have warriors in Smith-Anderson and Greer. They bring the hammer.

PT: Smith-Anderson / Greer
4-29 receiving

LG Jade Tadvick
6-5, 308, Senior
OL – Protection was good and they paved the way for 132 had fought yards on the ground. Wichman was sacked twice, but only one appeared to be an O-Line breakdown, and happened to be the last play of the game. Even better, this group showed great poise as they had only one penalty in a noisy (at times) Big Ten stadium. The impact of new offensive line coach Gregg Smith was evident, as was the maturity of 2 seniors, as this unit shoved around the MSU defensive front at times in this game, leading the offense to 4 drives of 10 plays or more on the afternoon. As expected at right guard, redshirt freshman Adam Juratovac started but split significant playing time with junior Marcis Fennell. Both played well on the afternoon.

PT: VanderPol / Tadvick / Korby / Anderson / Juratovac / Fennell

LT Nate VanderPol
6-6, 306, Senior

RG Adam Juratovac
6-3, 297, RS-Fr

DT Siua Musika
6-1, 293, Junior
Defensive Line - Facing the most daunting task of the day, the Vandal defensive line left it all on the field Saturday, giving the massive MSU offensive line everything they could handle. Inside junior Siua Musika (6-1, 293), redshirt freshman Marvin Jones (6-2, 302), senior Ryan Davis (6-0, 270), sophomore Alex Toailoa (6-1, 299), and junior Jon Dominguez (6-3, 253) did a solid job clogging the middle all day. Of note is the amount of playing time redshirt freshman Jones had Saturday...he will be a force in the years ahead and definitely held his own against the Big Ten linemen. The group was particularly effective against the run, while MSU's significantly larger line gave QB Stanton plenty of time to throw the ball most of the day. Defensive end Ben Alexander had a nice play knocking down a pass intended for a Spartan runningback. If he had held on for the pick, it would have been him and the MSU endzone. Overall, they're looking solid against the run and need to generate some more pressure and sacks...no matter how much the holding was ignored last Saturday.

PT: Musika / Jones / Davis / Dominguez / Toailoa / Shaw / Campbell / Alexander
2 solo tackles / 13 assists / 6 yards for loss

MIKE Jaron Williams
6-1, 217, Senior
LB – Vandal linebackers were expected to be a strength for Idaho this fall, and Saturday did not disappoint. Junior WILL David Vobora, junior SAM Josh Bousman, and the senior MIKE tandom of Jaron Williams and Robert Davis combined for 12 solo tackles and 18 assists on the afternoon. Vobora had a monster of a game accounting for 7 solo tackles, 9 assists, and a game highlighted by dropping MSU's top runningback for a 5 yard loss on a spectacular open field tackle. Bousman was equally as busy against the Spartans (4 solo, 6 assists), despite appearing to get swallowed up in the line at times. Jaron Williams' first start should have Vandal fans pleased, as he is turning into a machine and an emotional leader.

PT:Vobora / Bousman / Williams / Davis
12 solo tackles / 18 assists / 6 yards for loss

DB Shiloh Keo
5-10, 175, Tr-Fr
DB – Stanley Franks and Reggie Jones are living up to the hype. They played well against a receiving corps that featured 3 returning starters. They showed physical play and speedy coverage all day, limiting the MSU passing attack despite QB Stanton often having significant time to pick out a target. They played an outstanding game. Safeties Tone Taupule and true freshman Shiloh Keo also made their presence known, although Keo had his debut slightly tarnished when he gave up a score over the middle early in the game. He settled into the position and lived up to the confidence Coach Erickson and Coach Mills have given him. He will be a player to watch at Idaho for years to come. Highlights for the unit on the afternoon included Reggie Jones breaking in front of a Michigan State pass, but was unable to hang on for the interception. Stanley Franks represented the group on a 41 yard kickoff return.

PT: Franks / Jones / Smith / McDonald / Taupule / Keo
12 solo tackles / 8 assists / 3 yards for loss

Special Teams – Tino Amancio stunned everyone watching the game, including many of the Vandal faithful Saturday afternoon, when he nailed a 49 yarder to cut MSU's lead to 7-3 at the end of the first quarter. His next attempt, a 38 yarder being blocked (the snap was low and partially mishandled, leading to the low kick). Despite the miss, Vandal fans have to feel good about the 49 yard boot. Punter TJ Conley averaged 44.8 yards per punt, with a long of 53. He also showed heady play by tucking the ball and running for a first down when MSU was clearly going to block the punt. TJ Conley is turning into a weapon for the Vandals. His booming leg, athletic ability and quarterback experience give the Vandals an extra edge. Many Vandals returned kicks, and there were some good things for the coaches to evaluate (led by Stanley Frank's 41 yard kick return which brought the Vandals to mid-field to start a drive). Most of all, there were no turnovers and no big plays against the Vandals on Special Teams. There was more positive than negative, which hasn't been the case in recent years.

Game Quotable – Spartan Linebacker Coach and Former Idaho Vandal Linebacker Mike Cox – " Sure am proud to be a Vandal today."

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