One of many major differences between Idaho and Eastern Washington on Saturday:
Idaho’s best offensive weapon was quarterback Eric Hisaw; EWU’s most effective offensive weapon was linebacker Derek Strey.
Back in a starting role for the first time since the season opener, Hisaw ran for two touchdowns, passed for two more and scrambled EWU defenseless in the Vandals’ 37-10 homecoming football victory, viewed by 14,824 in the Kibbie Dome.
“He (Hisaw) got everybody’s emotions up. It even got our defense fired up seeing him making big plays,” said UI defensive end Ryan Phillips. “The offense had a great day.”
Hisaw made few mistakes in passing for 308 yards and running for another 42. He did toss two interceptions, one returned by Strey a school-record 92 yards for a touchdown that made the Big Sky Conference game interesting for a stretch.
EWU’s offense was banged up. The Eagles were without receiving deep threat Jerrold Jackson (concussions the last two weeks) and lineman T.J. Ackerman (knee).
The EWU offensive line failed to protect quarterback Brian Sherick. At times it appeared Sherick had a magnet in his jersey drawing him to the carpet. He was sacked six times and hurried on most pass attempts.
The Eagles managed one first down in the second half - on a deflected pass.
Coach Mike Kramer took the blame for EWU’s inept offense, but he alluded to the limitations he faced. “We didn’t call any drop-back passes,” he said, at one point noting that essentially 40 pages of the playbook were stuffed in his back pocket.
“We’re a one-back team and we didn’t call any drop-back passes? When you can’t throw downfield because your protection won’t hold up and you can’t run the ball, you might as well punt on first down.”
Hisaw was on early, scoring on a 33-yard QB draw play.
Strey’s interception knotted it 7-7 a minute into the second quarter, but Montrell Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 59 yards and an EWU penalty gave UI possession at the 22.
Two plays later, Hisaw improvised, stepped up in the pocket and flicked a TD pass to Dwight McKinzie from 19 yards. The play looked like something drawn up in street football.
UI’s next series was fueled by another Hisaw scramble that led to a 68-yard completion to McKinzie. Hisaw scored on a 6-yard bootleg run.
“Our ends kept slamming in and he (Hisaw) kept breaking outside. They keep their tight ends in and they cave down (on the end),” EWU linebacker Dion Alexander said. “You have to think, ‘Should I go in and rush him or should I stay in my drop?’ By the time you’re making that decision, he’s already passing.”
Leading 21-10 at halftime, it only took 12 seconds for the Vandals to deliver the knockout.
Maneuvering behind a string of quality blocks, Williams returned the third-quarter kickoff 93 yards for a TD. Williams also made the critical play in Idaho’s 40-15 win over EWU last season, returning a kickoff 100 yards after the Eagles had pulled within 16-15.
After Saturday’s run, UI’s defense took over. EWU gained 11 yards in the final two quarters.
“They stormed the castle, but they were only bringing six,” Kramer said. “At some point, in this league, your pass protection has to hold up. That’s what’s a little disconcerting to me, because we feel strongly about our offensive line and running backs’ ability to pick up the blitz.”
UI linebacker Dave Longoria matched Strey’s TD. Longoria plays fullback in a power set, but he slipped into the flat to snag a 1-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter to end the scoring.
Idaho snapped a two-game losing skid and sits at 1-2 and 2-3 with Big Sky leader Montana visiting next week. EWU (0-3, 2-4), which dropped its fourth straight, entertains Northern Arizona on Saturday.
Idaho 37, EWU 10
Eastern Washington 0 10 0 0 - 10
Idaho 7 14 6 10 - 37
UI-Hisaw 33 run (Woolverton kick) EWUStrey 95 interception return (Zurfluch kick)
UI-McKinzie 19 pass from Hisaw (Woolverton kick)
UI-Hisaw 6 run (Woolverton kick) EWUZurfluh 28 field goal
UI-Willimas 93 kickoff return (kick failed)
UI-Woolverton 30 filed goal
UI-Longoria 1 pass from Hisaw (Woolverton kick)
EWU UI First downs 10 26 Rushes-yards 30-46 43-226 Passing 086 308 Return Yards 95 00 Comp-Att-Int 27-11-0 31-16-2 Punts 11-41 4-40 Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0 Penalties-Yards 9-54 14-134 Time of Possession 26:19 33:41
RUSHINGEWU Sewell 18-60, Prescott 2-20; UI Kidd 22-96, Williams 5-49, Hisaw 9-42. PASSINGEWU Sherick 11-27-0 86; UI Hisaw 16-30-2 308. RECEIVINGEWU Lewis 3-25, Phelps 3-19, Prescott 2-18; UI McKinzie 5-152, Griffin 5-58, Scott 3-61
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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