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Offense spins wheels as Idaho falls to 0-4

Idaho's defense didn't get all its problems solved Saturday, or even most of them. But the 27 points it surrendered, in the eyes of Paul Petrino, should have put the Vandals in a position to win their Dad's Day game against South Alabama.

Only the Jaguars blew them out. 

The 34-10 pounding administered by the visitors was perplexing on any number of fronts, but mostly in how soundly they whipped the Vandals offense -- the bright spot even as Idaho stumbled to losses in its first three games.

For more on the Vandals and their pratfall in the Kibbie Dome, follow the link to the jump.

A lot of things went wrong at the Dome on Saturday, as outlined in this Spokesman-Review story. The account from Idaho's website is here, along with the stats. From South Alabama's website comes this story and some quotes. Here's the story from the Mobile Press-Register.

Petrino knew quarterback Matt Linehan and the offense would find USA's defense a bigger challenge than any they'd faced in the first three games. But that Vandals looked so ill-prepared for that challenge was a shock. The sack on the game's fourth play was a bad omen. The holding call as a USA blitz flushed Linehan two snaps later was worse. But when the Jaguars chased Linehan from the pocket with just a three-man rush on the next play, it was obvious this was going to be a long afternoon.

Beyond the seven sacks -- by seven different defenders -- the Jaguars were in Linehan's face all day and didn't give up much in the way of significant yardage on the ground. Searching for a hot hand, Petrino auditioned four different running backs -- Jerrel Brown to start, Elijhaa Penny, Aaron Duckworth and final Kris Olugbode. But the net yardage was just 30 with 70 in sack losses, and the called runs produced just 69 yards -- and Petrino again bemoaned the lack of a running game.

"Matt got us to the calls we wanted with their looks," he said. "But we've got to block it better. I'm not sure I'm calling it enough, but we have to execute it better so we'll have confidence in calling it."

--- Petrino was impressed enough with the strides made on defense to issue compliments, and there were some moments. Two turnovers wasn't a windfall, but it equalled Idaho's output from its first three games. Both interceptions belong to safety Chris Edwards;' his pick Saturday was a nice effort to corral a Brandon Bridge pass thrown slightly behind receiver Jereme Jones and deflected off his hands. Several plays later, Irving Steele forced a ball loose from USA's Kndall Houston and Jayshawn Jordan pounced on it. Down 27-3 when the first of them occurred, it was Idaho's lone chance to get back in the ballgame.

"I feel like it fired guys up," said defensive end Maxx Forde, one of just two players made available after the game. "We have to keep building on that, getting more turnovers, setting the offense up in favorable positions."

--- Statistics will never do Austin Rehkow justice. As a freshman, of course, he won a slew of awards in leading all NCAA punters with a 47.8-yard average -- which just happens to be his average through four games this season. But a year ago, there was a seven-yard differential between his average and the team net; that's down to 2.4 now, and on Saturday he nailed punts of 56, 53, 34, 56, 54 and 46 yards. Only one was returned, for seven yards. The 34-yarder was a mishit; the others were towering monsters. It's hard to think he's not the biggest special teams weapon in the Sun Belt Conference.

But after making his first three field goals of 2014, he had a case of the hooks Saturday -- snapping two attempts from 40 yards around a make from 37. This following a 10-of-17 freshman season when his long was 41 -- from a guy who made national headlines with his 67-yarder in high school.

--- The game wasn't close, so it's hard to make too much out of a mistake that cost just three points. Nonetheless, a subtle turning point came late in the first half when the Vandals got a third-down stop and looked to be in a position to have 20-some seconds for a couple of long-shot tries at their first points. Except that Quinton Bradley apparently got baited into an unsportsmanlike conduct foul, giving USA new life out near midfield, The Jaguars worked the clock impeccably and, sure enough, got a 44-yard field goal as time ran out for a 20-0 lead. Combined with Bridge's 54-yard touchdown burst three plays into the second half, it was a killer sequence.

"Most offensive linemen, in general, are going to get under your skin a little bit," Forde said. "They'll pick at you and get you to react. We have to make sure we keep our composure and let them get the calls when they hit us after the play, and not do anything back. If there's no call, so be it. But we have to not get the calls."

--- Some personnel notes. Jesse Davis displaced Nik Von Rotz as the starter at quick tackle against Ohio last week and virtually went the distance against USA. Guard Jordan Rose, who Petrino hoped to have back, missed his second straight game, as did safety Jordan Grabski. Leading receiver Josh McCain got banged up late in the game, but dismissed it in the post-game interview session as nothing major. But freshman David Ungerer spent the closing minutes of the game wrapped in ice after an apparent shoulder injury that came on the heels of two fine plays -- a 22-yard punt return and a short pass he turned into a 31-yard gainer. Kevin Shelton, who got a couple starts at fullback a year ago, has moved to the defensive line and saw a few snaps of action there. And Juan Martinez, a full-time starter at middle linebacker last year who has been relegated to special teams work, warmed up with the running backs Saturday.

--- The Vandals are on the road the next two weeks, at Texas State this Saturday and Georgia Southern Oct. 11. The Bobcats (2-2) have yet to play a Sun Belt game, but threw a scare into Illinois and on Saturday edged Tulsa 37-34. Georgia Southern, which last year launched its move from the FCS ranks, is the Sun Belt's biggest surprise -- 2-0 in the league, and with out-of-conference losses to North Carolina State and Georgia Tech by a total of five points.

 

 

 




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

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