It's now six losses in a row for the Idaho football team, and with each successive week, the setbacks grow more painful. Today at the Kibbie Dome, the Vandals were in great position to upset Hawaii. But it didn't happen.
Read on for more my story on the 16-14 loss, and more on the Vandals' quarterback situation.
To put it simply, this was a game the Vandals should have won. With just over 3 minutes left, Idaho led 14-13, the offense was milking the clock and the defense had stymied the Hawaii offense the entire second half. But that's when Brian Reader, on third-and-6 from the Hawaii 9, decided to toss the ball into coverage rather than take a sack or run. He was intercepted by UH linebacker Aaron Brown, and the momentum promptly swung in the Warriors' favor.
Said Robb Akey, “I think our field goal kicker is pretty good. That’s points on the board.”
Added Reader, “They were dropping a lot of guys. We were in a red zone. I didn’t necessarily expect that guy to be right there obviously; I threw it right there. Tried to force a ball that didn’t need to be forced and pretty bad mistake on my part.”
After much discussion the past few weeks, Akey finally made the switch from Reader to backup Taylor Davis to start against Hawaii. But Davis was even more ineffective than Reader has been this season — going 6-for-17 for 33 yards. Akey went back to Reader with 12 minutes left, and he looked sharper — and admittedly was more at ease — coming in as a reserve.
“It’s funny if you think about it,” Reader said. “When you can’t have something — it’s right there in front of you and you can’t have it, you want it more and more.”
Akey said he didn't make the decision to go with Davis until a few days into this week. The coach closed practice to the media and public, but said it wasn't because of the QB situation; he simply wanted his team to focus on Hawaii and not talk to reporters.
Why did he go with Davis? “I felt like we needed an opportunity to shake something up a little bit,” Akey said. “Let’s see if that would create us a spark.”
He said he would have to “watch the tape” when asked about Reader's performance. The senior was 5-for-7 passing with that costly interception and a bad overthrow in the closing seconds before UI's failed field-goal attempt.
Akey decided to go back to Reader with the passing game sputtering, despite a 14-13 lead. The Vandals' only real production came on the ground, mostly from Princeton McCarty. “I felt like we hadn’t exactly lit the place up offensively and wanted to see if that might give us an opportunity to change something,” Akey said.
As for the starter next week at San Jose State, the coach said he has yet to make up his mind. But given the switch back to Reader, I'd be surprised if Davis started. Akey said he would not continue to rotate the QBs.
The bottom line for the 1-7 Vandals: “You look at this team,” Akey said. “They play hard. They play with passion. They play physical. I mean, dadgum, we need to make a couple more plays. I ain’t saying we’re playing great. But we’re doing those things. That means we’re laying it on the line.”
NOTES — The Vandals lost receivers Armauni Johnson and Justin Veltung (toe). Neither finished the game, and Akey wasn't sure of their status for next week. Cornerback Tracy Carter was head-butted by teammate Quayshawne Buckley during the celebration of his 70-yard return of a third-quarter fumble. A woozy Carter fell to the ground and didn't return to the game. Akey said he should be back next week. Asked about Buckley, linebacker Korey Toomer said, “Kid loves to celebrate. He loves to be around his teammates and he celebrates a little different than everybody else. Tracy is OK and we got a touchdown on defense.” … The announced attendance was 10,461. … Former quarterback Nate Enderle was on the sideline with the Chicago Bears off tomorrow.. Reader said he spoke very briefly with Enderle … Also in attendance was Coeur d'Alene High's star quarterback, Chad Chalich. He was one of a several high school recruits visiting on game day.
By Josh Wright
MOSCOW, Idaho – Trey Farquhar has booted long field goals before – longer than what he faced with eight seconds left on Saturday. That’s why Idaho coach Robb Akey had his arms in the air when Farquhar’s 53-yard attempt started sailing toward the goal posts.
“I was confident we were going to make the play,” Akey said.
But, like so much else this season, the Vandals couldn’t follow through on their bid to snatch a win away from Hawaii. Farquhar’s kick fluttered short and to the left as time expired, and UI absorbed a 16-14 defeat at the Kibbie Dome.
The Vandals, 1-7 and 0-4 in the WAC after their sixth straight defeat, have lost three of their last four games by a combined 10 points. Of all the painful losses in the last month, this one might have stung the most.
Idaho had a 14-13 lead and the ball inside Hawaii’s 10-yard line with just over 3 minutes left. But quarterback Brian Reader – benched for the first three-plus quarters before replacing Taylor Davis – threw into double coverage near the goal line and was picked off by Hawaii linebacker Aaron Brown.
The Warriors (5-3, 3-1) then drove 60 yards on 12 plays to set up Kenton Chun’s 35-yard field goal with 32 seconds left.
The Vandals managed to get into field-goal range, thanks to Reader’s underhand toss to Kama Bailey that resulted in a 19-yard gain. Two plays later, with 13 seconds on the clock, Reader overthrew Michael LaGrone, who was open streaking inside the 10.
Akey elected to bring out Farquhar – a junior whose career long was 54 yards at Nevada in 2009 – on third down. His kick looked good for a moment before tailing off.
“Just comes down that to that last play every single time,” Reader said. “We controlled the ball, it seemed like. Just had trouble finishing.”
The Vandals managed only 85 passing yards and had two late red-zone opportunities that went awry. Early in the fourth quarter, Akey chose to go for a first down on fourth-and-1 at the UH 15 instead of attempt a field goal to go up 17-13.
Princeton McCarty, who had 99 yards on 28 carries, was stoned behind the line of scrimmage to give the ball back to Hawaii.
Asked about his decision, Akey said, “Well, the touchdown score would make it a big differential. We were running the ball, I felt like, pretty well. And I really felt we would be able to get that to try to make it more than a kick differential.”
UI squandered perhaps its best defensive effort of the season. The Vandals sacked Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz six times – after having eight sacks on the year before Saturday.
On one of Benson Mayowa’s three QB takedowns, the defensive end jarred the ball loose and Tracy Carter picked it up and sprinted 70 yards for a touchdown. The fumble recovery and score gave Idaho a lead it would have until the final minute.
“I feel sick and more than anything I feel sick for our players because they’ve been busting their tails and they’ve been doing things a lot better,” Akey said. “I want to see them be rewarded for the work they’re putting in. And we’ll get that reward next week (at San Jose State). That’s the bottom line.”