Jason Gesser won't look back fondly at his debut as Idaho football coach. The Vandals never fully capitalized on an assortment of San Jose State miscues -- including three first-quarter turnovers -- and lost steam late in the third quarter of a 42-13 loss. SJSU scored the last 28 points after Idaho drew within 14-13.
My story and notes are after the jump.
Before posting my game story that I filed from the Kibbie Dome -- where the crowd was announced at 14,429 but seemed a bit smaller -- here are extra quotes from Gesser and notes:
- Idaho starting cornerback Tracy Carter did not suit up. Gesser did not specify why, but he said the junior will be back next week when UI plays at BYU. Solomon Dixon started in Carter's place.
- Senior receiver Mike Scott and freshmen wideout Deon Watson got in a brief skirmish on the Idaho sideline late in the fourth quarter. The players never came to blows, but Watson was clearly upset after Scott appeared to squirt his water bottle toward Watson. Gesser came out to calm Watson down and also briefly talked to Scott.
- Linebacker Homer Mauga was on the sideline late in the game without pads after sustaining an unknown injury. Gesser said he wasn't aware Mauga was hurt until seeing him on the bench late in the game. Receiver Jahrie Level also missed the end of the game after an ankle or leg injury.
- Gesser said the offense's better production in the third quarter was due in part to going no-huddle. He indicated that he would like to run more up-tempo offense, but "we haven’t been a no-huddle team all season."
- The first half ended with Idaho running the last 75 seconds off the clock after forcing a SJSU punt. The end-of-half sequence included an awkward moment when Idaho, down 14-7, got a first down with 12 seconds left. Officials put an extra 10 seconds on the clock after measuring the yardage, but by that time the Idaho sideline was heading toward the tunnel. Gesser waved his starting unit off the field, but it was clear some players wanted to try at least one play. Here's how Gesser explained the situation: "Obviously the players always want to go for it. The crowd always wants you to go for it and everything like that. But the way that our offense was performing up to that point ... . We’re down by seven points at that juncture. If we go in with an inexperienced quarterback in his second start, throw a pick or turn the ball over and all the sudden they score before half, that’s huge. We had the ability to see if we could get something going on offense and if we didn’t, hey, we’re going to go into (halftime). It’s a seven-point game. We’ve got the ball coming out the second half."
- The Vandals were penalized just three times for 35 yards, a drastic improvement from earlier in the season. Yet their first penalty was a personal foul call on Benson Mayowa that I led my story with. Things spiraled out of control shortly after Mayowa retaliated when teammate Elan Richard was driven to the ground.
- Justin Parkins, a Moscow High grad, gave the Vandals a nice spark late in the game and led a sputtering run game with 43 yards on four carries. Gesser said Parkins' playing time was running back coach Wayne Moses' call. "I’ve got faith in all four of our backs."
San Jose State sacked Idaho quarterbacks seven times. Gesser hinted that at least a couple of the takedowns were because Logan Bushnell did not get the ball out quick enough.
By Josh Wright
MOSCOW, Idaho — Late in the third quarter, before Idaho unraveled in a 42-13 loss to San Jose State, redshirt freshman linebacker Elan Richard timed a jump perfectly at the line of scrimmage and swatted an attempted pass to the turf.
It was the best play of Richard's short career, one that could have jump-started the Vandals, who were down by just eight points.
But as the whistle blew, SJSU left tackle David Quessenberry drove Richard to the ground and pinned him down for a moment — a move Idaho's Benson Mayowa thought was excessive. So Mayowa retaliated, shoving Quessenberry and drawing a 15-yard personal foul penalty.
Two plays later, with some of the announced crowd of 14,429 at the Kibbie Dome still booing the officials, the Spartans scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass from David Fales to Chandler Jones.
The score was part of 28 unanswered points for SJSU in a 12-minute span, an outburst that sent Idaho fans streaming to the exits and squashed any hope that Jason Gesser would enjoy a triumphant coaching debut.
The Vandals (1-8, 1-3 WAC) had plenty of defensive breakdowns — and a pick-six from quarterback Logan Bushnell — to help the Spartans (7-2, 3-1) shake free and become bowl-eligible. But Mayowa's personal foul and a subsequent 15-yard penalty on Trey Williams were costly.
Afterward Gesser said he won't tolerate lapses in judgment like Mayowa's.
"The one on Benson, he can’t do it. Bottom line," said Gesser, who replaced Robb Akey two weeks ago on an interim basis. "These guys need to start understanding that holding their emotions and not reacting is going to help us better than reacting."
Discipline issues have cropped up throughout the season. UI played Saturday without starting quarterback Dominique Blackman, who was dismissed last week after multiple failed drug tests. And others, including Mayowa, have sat out at least a game for undisclosed suspensions.
Asked how he was addressing the problem, Gesser said it's simple: "If guys don’t do what we want them to do, they’re not going to play. Bottom line."
The Vandals were anemic offensively, especially in the first quarter when they turned three Spartans turnovers into just seven points. Bushnell heated up a bit in the second half, but finished with just 196 yards on 14-of-29 passing.
"It was just a couple quick plays here and there that got away from us," said Bushnell, who alternated in the second quarter with backup Taylor Davis. "We just needed a couple more big plays to get us into the end zone."
Idaho closed to within a point, at 14-13, with Trey Farquhar's second consecutive field goal to start the third quarter. But after a 75-yard touchdown drive from SJSU, Farquhar missed a 36-yard field goal.
Mayowa's penalty came on the next drive, and the Spartans' rout was soon in full force.
"End of the day, I just think we need more experience on the field," Gesser said. "To ask Logan and Taylor to go out there and be perfect in one game, they just need more reps. … They just need to get on the same page with receivers because things are there. We’ve just got to execute."