You know, just your basic 49-point first half, give up 558 passing yards, hang-on-for-dear-life, 55-43 Big Sky Conference football win.
Nothing special, right first-year Idaho coach Chris Tormey?
“I told (athletic director) Pete Liske that this Big Sky football is going to kill me,” Tormey said, smiling, after his team on Saturday tormented No. 6-ranked Montana in the first half, then endured a record-book assault by Grizzlies quarterback Dave Dickenson in a second half that doubled as a marathon.
“I can’t even describe it,” said UI quarterback Eric Hisaw, who had five first-half touchdown passes and a scoring run. “It’s the biggest win I’ve been part of.”
Why? Because it brushed UI back into the conference picture with a 2-2 record - after an 0-2 start - and within one of Montana’s and Northern Arizona’s 3-1 marks. At 3-3 overall, Idaho now has a conceivable chance to make a run at the postseason heading into a three-game road swing, starting at Weber State next Saturday.
A Kibbie Dome crowd of 14,912 viewed the memorable game that Idaho essentially won with a season’s worth of offensive highlights in the first half and a handful of key defensive plays in the second.
UI built a 49-16 lead at intermission that left many wondering if it were possible for the Vandals to play better offensively. The second half left many wondering if time had frozen as Dickenson tried to pull off a miracle comeback.
“They took the play to us and got us in a hole,” UM coach Don Read said. “Their offense is pretty good. I don’t think they realized it until today.”
Scores came at a dizzying pace early on. UI opened with a 66-yard TD drive, the key play coming when the Vandals shifted out of a fieldgoal formation on fourth down and Hisaw ran for a first down.
“We knew we needed touchdowns,” Tormey said.
UM, 6-2 overall, responded with a field goal, but Idaho was back on the board 16 seconds later, thanks to Montrell Williams’ 62-yard kickoff return and a 34-yard TD catch by Robert Scott on the ensuing play.
Ping-Ponging scores back and forth, UI led 28-10 after one quarter, the last Vandals TD coming when end Robert Mulder stripped Dickenson of the football and Dave Longoria recovered and rambled 50 yards.
Dickenson, who would shatter UM records for completions (43), attempts (72) and yardage (558), connected with Mike Erhardt on an 84-yard score, kind of a ho-hum play by first-half standards.
Leading 28-16, UI moved 68 yards, slowly this time. The Vandals overcame three long third-down situations, two created after Montana accepted penalties that would have forced fourth down had they been declined.
From the 5, Hisaw scrambled - a tactic that left UM defensive backs defenseless in the first half - and lobbed a punt, err, pass that receiver Dwight McKinzie caught by out-jumping cornerback Justin Hazel.
Two minutes later, Scott, who had three TD grabs in the first half, hauled in a 21-yard scoring pass with one hand. UI led 42-16.
Two minutes later, McKinzie scorched freshman corner Justin Gaines, subbing for the forlorn Hazel, for a 21-yard TD and a 49-16 lead.
The longest lag between first-half scores was 5 minutes, 30 seconds. UI had seven plays of 20 yards or longer, five covering more than 30 yards. Montana had three over 20 yards and the teams combined for 679 total yards, 579 through the air.
Halftime became necessary for recovery for fans and players alike.
Montana rallied mightily in the second half. Dickenson had two of his five TD passes in the third quarter and the deficit was trimmed to 49-30.
The latter score came after a UI TD was nullified by a penalty. On the next play, Hisaw fumbled the ball away. On the ensuing play, Dickenson fired a 59-yard score to Matt Wells.
Minutes later, Idaho forced a fumble - one of three critical Grizzly turnovers in the second half - and scored on a 29-yard screen pass to Lavoni Kidd.
But Dickenson guided UM into the end zone twice more, the last score making it 55-43 with 7 minutes left to play.
Idaho, which had only two first downs in the second half, now was reduced to running the ball to keep the clock moving and gained little yardage.
The mostly partisan UI crowd was squirming in their seats when punter Justin Spiva dropped a snap and Montana recovered at Idaho’s 29.
Dickenson fired four incompletions and UI held with 4:24 to go.
“We had our chances,” Dickenson said. “We felt good that we could put some points on the board.”
UM would get another chance after a Vandals punt, but Dickenson’s pass deflected off a Grizzlies receiver into Longoria’s hands, ending the 4-hour game that saw a combined 1,006 yards.
Idaho 55, Montana 43
Montana 10 6 14 13 - 43
Idaho 28 21 6 0 - 55
UI-Hisaw 1 run (Woolverton kick)
UM-Larson 38 fg
UI-Scott 34 pass from Hisaw (Woolverton kick)
UM-Pacheco 9 pass from Dickenson (Larson kick)
UI-Scott 44 pass from Hisaw (Woolverton kick)
UI-Longoria 50 fumble recovery (Woolverton kick)
UM-Erhardt 84 pass from Dickenson
UI-McKinzie 5 pass from Hisaw (Woolverton kick)
UI-Scott 21 pass from Hisaw (Woolverton kick)
UI-McKinzie 21 pass from Hisaw (Woolverton kick)
UM-Pacheco 3 pass from Dickenson (Douglass pass)
UM-Wells 59 pass from Dickenson (rush failed)
UI-Kidd 29 pass from Hisaw (pass failed)
UM-Erhardt 17 pass from Dickenson (rush failed)
UM-Branen 1 run (Larson kick)
UM Idaho First downs 27 16 Rushes-yards 20-068 45-153 Passing 558 310 Return Yards 75 25 Comp-Att-Int 72-43-2 23-15-0 Punts 6-75 3-25 Fumbles-Lost 3-0 2-50 Penalties-Yards 7-45 8-68 Time of Possession 28:46 31:14
RUSHINGUM, Dickenson 13-53, Branen 3-8, Erhardt 1-6; UI, Kidd 25-60, Hisaw 15-76, Williams 3-13.
PASSINGUM, Dickenson 72-43-2 558; UI, Hisaw 23-15-0 310.
RECEIVINGUM, Wells 11-141, Erhardt 10-22, Douglass 7-74; UI, Scott 6-20, McKinzie 5-111, Griffin 3-50.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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