What had the early makings of another step backward for the Idaho Vandals turned into something else altogether.
What it didn't turn into was a victory.
Big plays by a pair of freshmen allowed Ohio University to hold off the Vandals 36-24 on Saturday in Athens, Ohio -- dropping Idaho to 0-3 this year and 1-14 in the Paul Petrino erea.
The link will take you to more about the Vandals.
For your reading edification, here's the Associated Press account, the hometown angle from the Athens News and the release from the University of Idaho website. There's also a photo gallery there. And here's a sheet of quotes from the Bobcats' site. Oh, and the box score.
After falling behind 17-0, the Vandals got a spark in a rather unfortunate manner -- Bobcats quarterback Derrius Vick going down with a knee injury on a play in which the Idaho defender was flagged. That put the pressure square on backup J.D. Sprague, and it took him a while for him to find his legs.
By the time he did, Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan had warmed up sufficiently to get the Vandals back in the game. He directed a 76-yard march that produced the first Idaho touchdown 5:22 before halftime, with Elijhaa Penny getting the TD on a 1-yard run. And he had the Vandals knocking at the door just before halftime. But with Idaho out of timeouts and facing fourth down at the Ohio 1, Petrino opted to go for the touchdown -- and Penny was stopped for no gain.
"Yeah, I would do it again," Petrino said. "I thought you got a half inch to get, you should be able to get it. We needed to get it, we needed to block a little better and the runner needed to get it no matter what. But we didn't get it."
Still, the Vandals kept battling -- and two terrific touchdown catches by converted quarterback Josh McCain kept them close. But the Bobcats had their own magic. Freshman A.J. Ouellette, who had scored on a direct snap after Vick went down, turned a foiled halfback pass into a running touchdown that proved to be the clincher.
Meanwhile, another freshman, Quentin Poling, made life pretty miserable for Linehan -- intercepting the Idaho freshman three times. Linehan still managed to come up with his third 300-yard game -- 353 this time, on 33-of-56 passing. But those picks were killers.
"Hurts," Linehan would tweet later. "Really does."
More Petrino thoughts:
-- "I thought (the Vandals) played hard. I think, offensively, we had a 16-play drive and a 17-play drive with no points. You can't have that throughout the course of the game. I think that hurt us. I think our defense made some strides this week, but no question as the game went on we played harder and there were times in the first half that we drove the ball well. We just didn't come away with points."
-- "We forced them to some field goals down the stretch and we talked about that during the week. We just have to score the two times we were down there on offense and I think we have a great chance to win the game."
The Vandals return to Sun Belt Conference play on Saturday with 2 p.m. game with South Alabama, and you can be sure they're happy it's in the friendly confines of Kibbie Dome. Not that they've had great success in there lately, but they're 0-for-their-last-18 on the road.