Jason Gesser couldn't have been more to the point in his post-game news conference after the Vandals' 34-27 loss to UTSA. “If we didn’t turn the ball over, we would have won that game very easily.” Except there were plenty of other self-inflicted Idaho mistakes that led to its 10th loss of the year.
We've got our story and notes below.
We'll start with a few notes:
By Josh Wright
MOSCOW, Idaho — The anguish on Justin Veltung's face couldn't be hidden. Even with his helmet still on. Even with a coach and teammate trying to console him as he walked off the Kibbie Dome field after his final home game.
Idaho's nightmare season hit another low Saturday with a 34-27 loss to Texas-San Antonio, and it was Veltung's inexplicable fumbled punt with just over 2 minutes left that thwarted a last-minute Vandals' rally.
Instead of UI taking over near midfield with a chance to tie, UTSA (7-4, 2-3 WAC) recovered and bled the last 2:28 off the clock to clinch a winning season in its first year as a Football Bowl Subdivision provisional team.
Idaho (1-10, 1-4) lost its fifth straight game — and third in a row since Jason Gesser replaced Robb Akey as coach — after storming back from 17 points down at halftime and nearly rallying from a 14-point deficit in the final 7 minutes.
The Vandals' undoing on senior day was clear enough: 12 penalties for 100 yards, multiple breakdowns on defense and most glaring of all, three turnovers.
“It’s not rocket science,” said Gesser, whose team leads the FBS in turnovers lost (35). “We beat ourselves. We gave them every opportunity, and they took advantage of it.”
The backbreaker with Veltung's muffed punt. After Idaho forced a three-and-out, Veltung — an explosive kick returner before being hampered by injuries the last two years — went to field the punt.
But the ball hit the turf in front of him and took a UTSA bounce. With three Roadrunners surrounding the ball as it trickled into UTSA territory, Veltung lunged to try to grab it.
It was a risky move, and it backfired.
Afterward, fellow senior receiver Mike Scott and cornerbacks coach Torey Hunter walked arm-in-arm with Veltung as the last three members of the team to head into the locker room.
“Justin and I are very close on and off the field,” said Scott, who had a career-high 10 catches and 116 yards. “I told him, 'We win as a team and we lose as a team. The game is not predicated on one play.'”
Gesser, who acknowledged that a win might have helped his cause in earning the permanent head job, gambled with two fake punts and an onside kick. Both fakes worked, and the last — a 64-yard pass from punter Bobby Cowan to Camryn Harris early in the fourth quarter — put Idaho at the Roadrunners' 2-yard line.
But Idaho was called for a delay of game and holding on back-to-back plays and had to settle for a game-tying field goal.
UTSA then reeled off two touchdowns, only to watch the Vandals almost come back again.
“We’re very disappointed right now,” Gesser said. “We should have won that game. Very easily should have won that game.”