Vandal Miscues Costly

Despite playing Oregon tough in the first quarter, and <b>Malfred Shaw's</b> 52 yard scoring run from scrimmage in the second quarter, costly mistakes overshadowed an otherwise admirable effort by Idaho. With the 58-21 set-back the Vandals fall to 0-3 on the season in their second straight loss to a Top 15 team from the PAC-10.

The first 3 losses this season must be a tough pill to swallow for the 2002 edition of the Vandals. Frustration is probably a good way to describe their attitude at the end of this game. Frustration in that it seems that the team will do alot of things right (much better then they've done in the recent past), gain some momentum, then will have it evaporate in a flash on a mistake that the teams we're playing can exploit in a second. It happened several times Saturday at Oregon's Autzen stadium.

On Idaho's first possession, they drove 12 yards and were forced to punt. The snap sails over the head of an outstretched Ryan Downes (that's a 6-6 punter, by the way), and is recovered by Oregon at the Idaho 3. Not once this season has Idaho had trouble with snapping the ball on a punt, but today we did. Oregon goes in for the score, and it looks like the Vandals will fold before the game even starts.

Well, they didn't. They gather their composure, and force 2 consecutive Oregon punts the rest of the quarter.

Oregon then scores early in the second quarter. Idaho answers with a spectacular, up the gut, 52 yard touchdown scamper by Malfred Shaw that draws the score to 14-7. On the ensuing kick-off, Pope lands it in the endzone and Oregon starts at their own 20 (this, incidentally, was their worst field position to start a drive on the day).

Momentum advantage Idaho!

Not so fast...

On Oregon's first play from scrimmage, they connect on an 80 yard touchdown pass, and the momentum swings immediately back to Oregon. On Idaho's next drive they go 36 yards (under the leadership of sophomore QB Adam Mallette) then throw a pick that's returned 37 yards to the Idaho 27. The defense stiffens and forces Oregon to take a fieldgoal.

On Idaho next possession they drive 52 yards in an efficient 8 play, 2:36 drive, but the drive stalls at the UO 35 and their fieldgoal attempt fails. The defense again bends but doesn't break, and Oregon kicks a field goal to take a 27-7 lead at the half.

After halftime, Oregon goes 73 yards in 3 plays on their first possession. The teams exchange a couple possessions each (both times UO starts at their 45 and is forced to punt, while both times Idaho starts within their 20), then late in the third quarter Idaho marches 74 yards in a 10 play drive that chews 4:26 off the clock. With the score 34-14, Idaho feels a little momentum swinging their way.

Then, on the kickoff UO takes over at their own 35 and rips off a 5 play 65 yard touchdown drive. End of the quarter, Idaho down 41-14. Then the wheels fall off as miscues hit Idaho hard.

To start the 4th quarter Idaho fumbles the ensuing kickoff (their first of 2 fumbles in the 4th), and Oregon scores a TD. On the next series, Idaho again sails the snap over the punter's head, and Oregon recovers on the Idaho 9. In a stoic effort the defense holds, and UO is forced to kick a fieldgoal. On Idaho's next possession, they fumble on their 15 yardline, and Oregon goes in for the touchdown. Finally, with the damage done, Idaho shows pride and goes 80 yards in 9 plays to bring the final score to 58-21.

An interception, 2 fumbles in the 4th quarter, and 2 blown punt snaps resulted in 3 Oregon touchdowns and 2 fieldgoals (17 points in the 4th quarter alone). Handing 27 easy points to an opponent (one a 3 yard Oregon scoring drive, the other a 15 yard scoring drive), especially an opponent like the Ducks, will always make the afternoon long.

Don Ryan / AP
Vandal defense wraps up Oregon QB Jason Fife.
With admirable performances by the offense, especially QB Brian Lindgren (23 of 33 for 207 yards, a TD and no interceptions) and the running attack (174 yards between 4 ball carriers), and another improving effort by the defense against an explosive offense (congrats to Jason Jones with getting his first sack of the season, and Robert Ortega who in his first start at Free Safety ended the day tied for first on the team in tackles), its unfortunate the game ended with as lopsided a score as it did.

But turnovers and special teams are as much a part of this game as any other aspect. And today they spoke volumes on a day when Idaho would lead in first downs (28-16), total yards (404-403), passing yards (280-238), punt return yardage (21-3), kickoff return yard average (17.9 - 11) and time of possession (38:50 - 21:10).

We've seen a number of individuals make a substantial improvement as the season has progressed, against some of the best teams the PAC-10 has to offer. Our rookie defense, under our rookie defensive staff, has made noticeable progress.

At some point this season we believe things will come together for this team. We talk alot about the team showing pride in the face of adversity. Well, its time that we the fans do the same thing and make the journey to The Dome this Saturday to support the team in their first home game of the season. Its an important game for the team, against a tough opponent in San Diego State University from the Mountain West Conference.

The team needs our support now more than ever.

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