Perhaps the Idaho football team should have known it was going to be a good night after watching Nebraska rip apart Washington on the road. Sure, the Vandals got beat 38-17 at Nebraska last week -- but as UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said after tonight's game, they held up much better in Lincoln than the Huskies did in Seattle.
Much later in the day, the Vandals silenced the Rebels' offense on their way to a 30-7 win with 15,390 watching at the Kibbie Dome. Check out below to read our game story.
By Josh Wright
MOSCOW, Idaho – When Robb Akey took over the Idaho football program four years ago, this must have been what he envisioned: The Kibbie Dome pulsating for a nationally televised game, and the Vandals’ defense flying around with as much energy as he exerts on the sideline.
Saturday night against UNLV, Idaho’s plan came together seamlessly from the start. It smothered the Rebels in a dominant first half and rolled to a 30-7 triumph in front of Dad’s Weekend crowd of 15,390.
The Vandals (2-1) won their third straight against Mountain West competition in the last two years to head into a three-game road trip with a needed shot of momentum.
“Best defensive performance we’ve had here since I’ve been here, hands down,” said senior defensive end Aaron Lavarias, who had two of the team’s six sacks and a forced fumble “We played amazing, I thought.”
Idaho opened the ESPNU-televised game with a crisp 14-play touchdown drive before the disruptive defense went to work. The Rebels (0-3) crossed midfield just once in the first half, mustered 187 yards, and didn’t score until inside the final 80 seconds against UI second- and third-stringers.
At home in two games, the Vandals have allowed just seven points – after surrendering 36 points per game last year.
It’s a welcome sight for Akey, a longtime defensive coach before coming to Moscow.
“We’re getting closer to the standards that I expect us to be able to (perform at),” he said. “And I see those guys flying around and they’re building off some success now.”
Idaho’s offense, on the other hand, racked up meaty gains in the first 20 minutes and didn’t punt until the start of the fourth quarter. Yet it was far from an efficient outing.
The Vandals squandered plum field position repeatedly after rampaging to a 24-0 lead and came away with no points on consecutive trips inside the Rebels’ 5-yard line.
Other drives were marred by dropped passes or penalties at key times.
“You can’t worry about it because it’s done,” quarterback Nate Enderle said of the mistakes. “We tell everybody to kind of reset, move on to the next play.”
Enderle amassed 210 passing yards – often against broken coverage – before getting pulled in the fourth quarter and Deonte Jackson punctuated two first-half drives with 1-yard dives into the end zone.
The Vandals came in having given up the most sacks (11) in the FBS through two games. But against UNLV, which had yet to register a sack beforehand, the UI offensive line protected Enderle better.
The senior was taken down twice, the first after tailback Princeton McCarty was flattened in pass protection by 315-pound Isaako Aaitiu.
McCarty led UI with 63 yards on 12 carries. Overall the Vandals averaged 3.1 yards per attempt for 122 yards on the ground.
“I think we ran the ball pretty well tonight,” Akey said. “I think that group (the offensive line) is coming well together.”
Asked if he was surprised how the Vandals took control so quickly, first-year UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said, “Not much. They held up pretty well against Nebraska. We watched Nebraska (Saturday against Washington), and they played well. And this team went into Nebraska and they held up.”