Vandals, Woolridge shine in opener

Maybe things are going to be different this year for the Vandals. Heck, they already are. Idaho seized upon all sorts of San Diego State mistakes early and rode DeMaundray Woolridge in the fourth quarter in a 34-20 win at the Kibbie Dome. The only disappointing note for UI? There were just 10,324 fans on hand to watch the win.

Keep reading for my game story for tomorrow's S-R, and a few other notes.


First, my gamer:

By Josh Wright

MOSCOW, Idaho – It was the definition of a head-shaking, calamitous start. An interception taken to the house, a quarterback injury, a fumbled handoff exchange – all these were back-breaking developments in their own right.

But to the delight of fans at the Kibbie Dome, the mistakes weren’t Idaho’s.

The Vandals instead feasted on San Diego State’s foibles and parlayed a rousing defensive outing into a 34-20 victory on Saturday.

A crowd of 10,324 in the refurnished Dome saw Idaho cap its second win in three games with a flourish and witnessed a breakout performance from bruising tailback DeMaundray Woolridge.

The Washington State transfer, who lingered away from football for two seasons, unleashed two electric touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The last was a 53-yard scamper in which the 241-pound Wooldridge bulldozed through the line and sprinted untouched past the Aztec secondary.

The breakaway run with 2:31 left sealed the Vandals first non-conference win over an FBS team since 2004.

“Everybody calls him the bowling ball and all that,” Idaho tight end Daniel Hardy said of Woolridge, who rushed for 93 yards. “But he tries to tell us all the time in practice, ‘Man, I’ve got speed too.’ He’s about 235 but he can move.”

The Aztecs (1-2) were plagued by two ghastly turnovers that staked Idaho to a 17-3 lead. They also lost starting quarterback Ryan Lindley with a hand injury for most of the second quarter before the sophomore returned.

“We just can’t turn the ball over,” SDSU coach Brady Hoke said. “We can’t have penalties – and we had some dumb penalties.”

San Diego State was penalized nine times for 85 yards in its 12th straight road loss outside the Mountain West. Two of those flags were pass interference calls on back-to-back plays that set up Wooldridge’ first TD run, a rugged 7-yarder.

The Aztecs were called for another pass interference earlier in the drive, but Idaho declined it.

“I’ve never seen three pass interference calls on the same drive. Ever,” SDSU defensive coordinator Rocky Long said. “And all of them were questionable.”

Most of the damage was done before the officials starting chucking flags. With SDSU driving on its first possession, UI linebacker JoJo Dickson bolted in front Vincent Brown, snagged Lindley’s pass and pranced 74 yards untouched for the first score of the game.

“I jumped it quickly and it was like Merry Christmas,” Dickson said. “He threw that ball right to me.”

The Vandals took advantage of another Aztec turnover midway through the second quarter. In Drew Westling’s first snap after replacing Lindley, tailback Brandon Sullivan bobbled the handoff exchange and UI’s Aaron Lavarias recovered at the SDSU 19.

The Vandals wound up with a 29-yard field goal that put them up 17-3.

“We gave them 10 points, basically,” Aztecs offensive coordinator Al Borges said.

The Vandals unveiled a version of the “Wildcat” formation, with Deonte Jackson taking direct snaps and quarterback Nathan Enderle lined up as a receiver on the outside. Late in the first quarter, Jackson took the snap and dived into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown.

“We’ve been running that all through camp,” UI coach Robb Akey said. “We started with it early in camp and we’ve been running it all through. And we felt like there was an opportunity today.”

Once again, Brown was the highlight of SDSU’s offense. The junior had 13 catches for 143 yards. He helped move the chains while the Aztecs’ running game sputtered in the second half with Sullivan out with a knee injury.

San Diego State had just 55 yards on the ground on 23 carries.

“It was a good win, but we’re still not satisfied,” Idaho defensive tackle Jonah Sataraka said.


Now, for some Web-only stuff:

I didn't get to this in my story, but a big key to the win was Idaho's defense forcing back-to-back punts after place-kicker Trey Farquhar missed a gimme 20-yard field goal and a 42-yard attempt. The first stop came thanks to a nice sack by Sataraka, who was pleased with how UI responded to the adversity.

"In years past I’ve been here where, something bad happens, everything crumbles," he said. "This is a new year, new team, so we have high expectations, and it’s looking good so far."

In my eyes -- and I'm not alone among Idaho beat reporters -- Woolridge has to become a feature back after a performance like this. He was so much better than every other tailback Idaho brought out, and that's not meant to belittle the contributions of Princeton McCarty or Deonte Jackson. Someone asked Akey if Woolridge can expect more carries, and here's what he had to say: "I'd say there’d probably be a pretty good chance of that, yes. ... We’re going to continue to go with guys that have hot hands, but certainly DeMaundray and his last two performances has shown that he’s worthy of getting more. And he did a great job of closing things out for us today. And I’m not taking anything away from what Princeton and Deonte did also."

Other quotes of note:

Akey on the start of Aaron Grymes, who was in the lineup in place of Isaac Butts at corner: "Of course we had a plan, yes, absolutely. But that was the deal, and Grymesy is growing up. And he’s doing some good things. I think Butts has responded to some things too, and he responded in practice and I think he played very well today."

Enderle on his 15-yard run where he opted to take a hit instead of slide, "Coach (Jonathan) Smith tells me to slide, but in the heat of the moment, that’s not really at the top of my head. And it should have been at the top of my head, because I took a pretty good lick."

Akey on the same play: "(I) said that’s the way to be a guy. I thought that was awesome. And to me, I look at that and there's a guy being a leader, there’s a guy making a play for his team. I thought that was awesome."

Dickson on bouncing back: "This was very important. (The) coaches and players both emphasized getting that redemption win that we needed. (We were) flying aroud to the ball, making sure that we make those tackles and those plays that we need. And you know all week at practice, the defense, they stepped up for this week."

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