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Vandals take a step back in 45-33 loss to WMU

So if a football team gives up touchdown plays of 61, 31, 57 and 39 yards it's possible that it could still survive, if the damage was limited to a few big plays. And if it surrenders 210 yards to a rugged running back, well, that might not be certain death -- if they don't give up a bunch of big plays, too.

Except Idaho gave up the big plays and the big yards by the big back, and took a pretty big step back from their first week showing in a 45-33 loss to Western Michigan in Saturday's home opener at the Kibbie Dome.

The link below will take you to more on the Vandals.

 

 

Idaho coach Paul Petrino didn't try to mask the fact that he was "disappointed" in his team's effort in this game story from The Spokesman-Review. WMU coach B.J. Fleck -- the youngest head coach in FBS at age 33 -- was particularly jazzed about the pressure the Broncos brought on Vandals quarterback Matt Linehan and getting the game's lone, and key, turnover, as revealed in this account from the Kalamazoo Gazette. 

A few notes:

-- For two teams that were 1-11 a year ago under new coaches, you'd have to say the Broncos are making faster strides. ESPN ranked Western's recruiting class 54th in the nation -- the highest ever such ranking for a Mid-American Conference team. Eight of those true freshmen are on the WMU two-deep and of those, Jarvion Franklin is obviously the most impactful. After a 130-yard effort in his college debut against Purdue, he carried the ball 33 times for 210 yards against the Vandals.

"He's a really good running back," said Idaho defensive end Maxx Forde. "But he's a true freshman, too, so we just wanted to come and hit him. We wanted to let him know we were there, just kind of welcome him to college football. He did a good job running. He ran tough -- ran through a lot of our tackles, obviously. We didn't tackle well enough today."

-- Theo Lawson of the Lewiston Tribune notes that Franklin is in some pretty good company as a 200-yard runner against the Vandals over the past six years. 

-- Petrino saved what little praise he had for his team for his offense, and Linehan and Co. did keep pace with the Broncos for a while. But they also sustained some dings that are troublesome. Guard Jordan Rose, the true freshman out of Freeman, got his first start, but made an early exit, favoring his left leg while being supported by trainers. He never returned and Petrino's face clouded over when he said he hoped it wasn't too bad. Tight end Justin Podrabsky took a wicked lick on the legs from WMU's Rontavious Atkins after snagging a rollout pass from Linehan on the last play of the third quarter and spent the rest of the game limping on the sidelines. Receiver-running back-returner Richard Montgomery was in, out, in and out again, though he said after the game it was just cramps.

-- Petrino had found fault earlier in the week for not getting the ball to Montgomery more in the opening loss to Louisiana-Monroe. and it became evident why. In the second quarter, he caught a slant from Linehan and simply ran away from WMU backup safety Jon Henry for a 62-yard touchdown.

What happened on that play, Richard?

"I ran my route correctly, the way the coaches told me," he said.

Well, that's a start.

"I caught the ball and all I saw was green. I'm the fastest guy on the team and I'm not going to let no one catch me."

Still, those cramps limited Montgomery's impact. He had just three catches, and carried the ball three more times for 12 yards. 

-- Linehan, who threw for 342 yards in his collegiate debut last week, came back with a 362-yard effort. He is prone to the freshman mistake -- the goal-line interception that essentially turned the game in Fleck's eyes -- but for long stretches he can look like anything but a freshman. His decision-making and vision during several series were impeccable. Just moments before the interception, the Vandals were looking at 4th-and-7 at the WMU 33 and lined up to go for it, prompting the Broncos to call a hurried timeout (that sent Petrino into a bit of a snit at the referee). When they lined up again, Linehan angled away from some pressure, stepped toward the line of scrimmage as if to run and lofted a perfect pass to Josh McCain, the play going 26 yards. It was one of those momentum-grabbers -- until the pick three snaps later.

"I thought Matt competed his butt off," said Petrino. "I thought he did a lot of things well. He ran around, scrambled, made good plays, made good throws. Stood in there and fought. What didn't he do well?"

-- The announced attendance was 14,721. The actual attendance was . . .  considerably less. The end sections on both sides were virtually empty, and opposite the student section there were significant blocks of seats unoccupied. And once the Broncos went up three scores, any emotion in the building went pffft. Tough to herd people indoors with the weather as terrific as it was, but it was pretty clear the near-miss last week didn't pique the interest of casual fans. 

 

 

 




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John Blanchette
John Blanchette is a freelance columnist who writes about local sports issues.

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