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Three observations after UI fades at LSU

Idaho receiver Najee Lovett summed up Saturday night's 63-14 loss to LSU this way on his Twitter account: "We had death valley silent for two quarters." It's hard to imagine the 92,177 at Tiger Stadium being completely silent, but the Vandals did make the game more interesting than expected in the second quarter. Much more interesting. 

We have more on UI's third straight loss to start the season below, as well as three observations on the Vandals heading into a home game with Wyoming (also 0-3) next week.

*****

The Vandals quickly fell behind the third-ranked Tigers 14-0, and it looked like it was going to be 21-0 before safety Gary Walker intercepted LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger at the Tigers' 1 and sprinted 94 yards -- the longest INT return for Idaho since 2006. That set up a 4-yard TD pass from Dominique Blackman to Michael LaGrone to make it 14-7. And after an LSU touchdown, the Vandals then went 81 yards in seven plays to get within a touchdown again.

LSU, a 421/2-point favorite, led just 21-14 at that point, deep into the second quarter. It's hard to imagine anyone expecting that, especially after Idaho manufactured just three points against Eastern Washington in the first week of the season.

What happened from the last few minutes of the second quarter through the end of the game isn't as memorable for the Vandals. After three straight false start penalties forced Idaho to punt deep in its end zone, LSU scored a quick TD before the half -- and then bullied Idaho in the second half. The Tigers scored the game's last 42 points.

From UI publicist Becky Paull's release:

“In the first half,” coach Robb Akey said, “our team did a better job of competing and finding a way to make plays. It was a battle at that point in time.”

In the second half, some of the fizzle went out of the Vandals in the face of two quick scores that pushed LSU to a four-touchdown lead with 8:29 to go in the third. Part of Idaho’s troubles were of their own making – penalties and turnovers.

“You can’t turn the ball over to a team that good the way we did it,” Akey said.

Then, there were the Tigers themselves.

“Their size and mass took over.”

So, the Vandals are 0-3 for the first time since 2005. Next week they host Wyoming, which lost to Cal Poly at home with its starting QB injured. That means both UI and the Cowboys are winless and have dropped games to FCS teams. Should be two desperate teams at the Kibbie Dome on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Here are three observations about the Vandals after Week 3:

  1. They can build off the last two weeks. The season-opening loss to EWU was a stinker, but they rallied against Bowling Green last week behind Blackman's dazzling debut and they showed some life in the first half against one of the nation's elite teams -- at perhaps the toughest place to play in college football.
  2. Lots of penalties (and turnovers to a lesser degree) are becoming a trend. The Vandals had nine penalties this week (after 10 last week), and Blackman had four interceptions, two of which were returned for TDs. UI can beat Wyoming -- and perhaps compete at North Carolina the following week -- but it must clean up the mistakes.
  3. The running game has been absent. Idaho was outrushed 250-39 by LSU. It averaged a measly 1.5 yards per carry. This comes after gaining 6 net yards at Bowling Green last week. On the plus side, the struggling offensive line didn't yield a sack. Pretty impressive against LSU's vaunted D-line.



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