Saturday's game by redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Enderle was not perfect, and he would be the first to say so. Overall, he and the Vandal offense were remarkably effective at times at moving into scoring position against the USC defense, but struggled to punch it in from short yardage. On two separate drives at the end of the second quarter Idaho had scoring opportunities, with first and goal inside the 20-yard line each time. This week, Idaho could only walk away with three points in those crucial situations.
On the good side, he didn't throw a pick all night. In going 16-of-34, he threw for 155 yards. His long of 29 yards went to "slash" Eddie Williams (tightend / flanker / H-Back). For the most part he was very poised in the pocket under heavy pressure from SC's loaded front line. He was sacked just once (NOTE: Kudos to Idaho's offensive front line on an admirable game).
But the key to the analysis of this game was something we were watching closely throughout the night. We would never say that Idaho teams in the recent past "gave up" when things went awry. That wouldn't be fair to the players that did leave it all on the field each and every week. But, there was a definite change in Idaho intensity and confidence against certain teams as a game would progress. Things would go well, something adverse would happen, and the team just didn't seem to play the same way after it happened. Maybe it would be a failed attempt to score from short yardage, or a pick or a fumble, or any of a number of things.
Not last week at USC.
In particular was the performance of Enderle. There were missed passes, probably a few situations where his read was not the best, and an unusual fumble in the third quarter that gave the Trojans the ball deep in Idaho territory.
But in all cases Enderle - as well as his teammates - bounced back, kept his composure, and kept the Vandal offense moving forward against a formidable opponent (NOTE: Hats off to the Vandal D that stopped the USC offense following Idaho's third quarter fumble - the Trojans did not get a single point out of that turnover). That composure is what we were looking for in this year's young Vandal squad.
The Vandal team - and Idaho fans - will be counting on Enderle, head coach Robb Akey, and the team leaders to keep this effort going as the season progresses.
This week's opponent is Football Championship Division (formerly known as Division 1AA) Cal Poly, and nobody in America will confuse the Mustangs with USC. But that doesn't mean they won't be coming into this game expecting to give Idaho everything they can handle. Cal Poly, a solid program that has posted four straight winning seasons and last year won three games by shutout, beat San Diego State last year and UTEP in 2003. They lost last week to Texas State 38-35, but are ranked in the FCS Top 25 polls. Without a doubt, they will be coming into this game hell bent on beating the Vandals, and won't be bothered by Idaho's performance Saturday against USC. That game has no bearing on this Saturday's outcome in Moscow, and Cal Poly knows it.
It is up to Idaho to maintain the intensity this week and next week that they exhibited Saturday against USC.
|br> PREGAME CONFIDENCE: Enderle looked confident and poised from beginning-to-end in this game. The only mistake of note in the game came in the third quarter when he lost the handle on the ball as he was raring back to make a pass while on the run. The error resulted in his only turnover in the game, against a defense considered by many to be among the best in the history of Trojan football.|
|br> Enderle takes aim at Vandal tightend Rolly Lumbala on a pass over the middle.|
|br> br> Nathan broke out on naked-bootlegs throughout the game, a gameplan shared with the Fox Sports Northwest TV crew calling the game prior to kickoff by Idaho offensive coordinator Steve Axman. At the time it seemed a risky proposition, but as the game progressed it became apparent that Enderle was effective on the run.|