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Vandals complete stirring comeback

What a scene at the Kibbie Dome. A wild shootout came to a riveting finish tonight, with Idaho holding off Colorado State 31-29 in front of 16,000 fans -- many of whom rushed the field afterward. 

Read on my story after a very late night in Moscow.

*****

Here's the gamer written way too quickly for me to want to read ....

Josh Wright
Correspondent 

MOSCOW, Idaho - Nathan Enderle touched his knee to the Kibbie Dome turf and chaos ensued. Idaho students scurried en masse down from stands, players danced on the field and coaches rejoiced.

After all the agony the program has lived through, the Vandals were going to squeeze every second of enjoyment from this night.

Playing in front of 16,000 fans packed in like sardines into the Dome - and a nationally televised audience - Idaho staged a momentous rally to eke out a 31-29 victory over Colorado State on Saturday night.

After their biggest win in years, the Vandals continued their finest start since 1994.

“It feels really good,” coach Robb Akey said. “I see a football team that's growing up.”

The Vandals climbed out holes of 14-0 and 20-7 by unleashing a quick-strike aerial assault. Enderle threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to Eric Greenwood on streaks down the sideline.

With Daniel Hardy out with a kidney injury, Greenwood and fellow wideout Max Komar combined for 18 catches for 282 yards.

It was a striking reversal of fortunes after Enderle's costly interception deep in CSU territory on Idaho's first possession. The turnover helped the Rams (3-2) vault to a two-touchdown lead.

“It's always a downer when you're about to score and it goes the other way,” Enderle said. “That was a tough break for us. … (But) it shows some growth as team to come back like that.”

The shootout came to a riveting conclusion after the Rams easily drove the field in the waning minutes, scoring on a 39-yard TD with 1:40 left to draw within two points. John Mosure's direct-snap scamper on the conversion attempt came up just short, and the Vandal defense stormed to the sideline in exultation.

After Idaho failed to drain the clock, CSU had one more chance. But safety Shiloh Keo picked off Grant Stucker with 1:04 remaining to seal the win.

“The team pulled it off,” Keo said. “We finally got our act together.”

Things began swimmingly early on for the Vandals after a CSU three-and-out. Idaho coolly marched down the field, reaching the 2-yard line after an 18-yard connection from Enderle to Max Komar.

But then Enderle, pressured out of the pocket, lofted an errant pass that was intercepted by Nick Oppenneer in the back of the end zone. The cornerback raced 52 yards on the return, and it took CSU just four plays to break through for a touchdown.

After the next UI drive fizzled, the Rams ripped off a 52-yard punt return, followed by another effortless drive. Eric Peitz capped the march with a 3-yard TD from Stucker.

But after a series of early pratfalls, Idaho finally got on track with a 10-play, 80-yard drive midway through the second quarter. Enderle hooked up with Komar four times, including a key 16-yarder on third-and-11, then found Greenwood hurtling down the sidelines for a 31-yard TD strike.

The Vandals had new life, and Akey showed it by meeting Greenwood in mid air for a chest bump.

Idaho then unveiled a no-huddle offense to start the third period and started chucking the ball all over the field. Clearly more in sync, Enderle found Greenwood for a 45-yard bomb just 1:22 into the third to cut CSU's lead to 20-17.

Seven minutes later, the Vandals went ahead for the first time, 24-20, when Komar snuck past Elijah-Blu Smith in the near-side corner for a 22-yard TD grab.

*********

There were lots of good quotes I couldn't sqeeze into my story, most notably Akey pointing out the Vandals are now 2-0 against Mountain West Conference. Some other quotes of note:

  • Enderle: "It means so much. Winning is everything in college football. To have a good start like that, it really sets us up for a good season."
  • Keo on starting 4-1: "Man, it’s awesome. It’s a relief, and it brings the confidence back into you. 
  • Greenwood: "For the fans, it’s a long time coming. You saw how they came out today. It shows they have a lot of faith."

Also, Akey said late in his meeting with reporters that Daniel Hardy will be a late-week decision to see if he'll be able to go against San Jose State. Akey mentioned no other injuries he knew of.




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