The Vandals succumbed 42-23 to Washington, but they didn't do so meekly. At least not when the offense was on the field. Keep reading for analysis of UI's first loss of 2009.
A step back for the Vandals? Well, probably so. Saturday afternoon's loss on a picture-perfect day in Seattle exposed a number of weaknesses for Idaho that will take time (and maybe new personnel) to fix.
The biggest worry for Robb Akey and his staff has to be the defense. Quite simply, Jake Locker shredded the secondary and was in complete control -- especially on third down situations. By the time UI finally stopped UW on a third down, the Huskies just went for it on fourth down anyway -- and easily converted. Locker had a very nice day, but he didn't need to be mutlidimensional to post big numbers -- his longest run of the day was 10 yards and he only took off six times.
One of the more interesting developments in the second half was that freshman Aaron Grymes replaced Isaac Butts at cornerback. Akey said Butts wasn't hurt -- he just didn't play well, according to Jesse Baumgartner's Lewiston Tribune blog. Butts has been up and down during his time with the Vandals, and Locker took advantage of his struggles on Saturday (for example, check out this photo in The Seattle Times of James Johnson burning Butts.)
What's clear is that Akey isn't going to hesitate to bench more entrenched upperclassmen (like Butts) for newcomers and freshmen. The defense registered zero sacks and few members of the front seven played well outside perhaps Robert Siavii and Paul Senescall to a degree. Don't be surprised to see more of Grymes (who's also developing into a nice special-teams player), Korey Toomer, Gary Walker, Conrad Scheidt and other newbies on the defensive side come next week vs. San Diego State.
There were a few positives, though. The passing game flourished against a fairly benign UW secondary, and the offensive line shined in pass coverage. Eric Greenwood, in the stadium his father played at for UW, had a career day with five catches and 57 yards, while Daniel Hardy had a career-best six grabs for 103 yards. Another positive was the play of place-kicker Trey Farquhar and punter Bobby Cowan. Both had nice days.
Nate Enderle looked comfortable in the pocket, but his most telling pass of the day was a wretched interception at the start of the third quarter that completely swung momentum. UI had just recovered a fumble of the opening kickoff the second half, and Enderle threw a pass right into the hands of UW linebacker Mason Foster. If the INT doesn't happen and UI scores a TD who knows how the game turns out. But in the larger view, that's two very poor interceptions for Enderle in two games. I don't think he's in danger of losing his starting job (though Brian Reader looked sharp in mop-up duty), but a couple more inexplicable INTs and Akey has to think about making a switch.
Afterward on the Idaho radio broadcast, Idaho AD Rob Spear questioned a couple non-calls (apparently on two would-be pass interferences) and said he hopes folks get to look at the replays. That's all well and fine, but it's doubtful a couple of botched decisions by the officials kept Idaho from winning; UW's offense was way too much in control.
Agree or disagree? Comment away.