The University of Idaho lost its sense of direction Saturday.
The Vandals spun their wheels in the face of 30-mph gusts, and cut loose their chances for a share of the Big West Conference football title with a 24-17 defeat to the University of North Texas.
“I don’t have another shot,” UI senior defensive end Ryan Phillips said. “This was our chance for a ring. It hurts.”
With only Saturday’s game at Boise State remaining, the Vandals slipped to 5-5 overall and 2-2 in the Big West.
It was the Idaho offense, which averages 500 yards per game, that did the initial damage. And the wind played a major role.
“It took away a lot of our big pass routes,” said quarterback Ryan Fien, who refused to use the weather as an excuse for the Vandals’ lowest offensive output since last season’s loss at McNeese State in the Division I-AA playoffs.
The Vandals finished with 265 yards of offense. Fien accounted for 190 with an 18-of-36 passing effort, while Joel Thomas rushed for 88 yards on 21 carries. But because of sacks and tackles for losses, the Idaho ground attack netted just 75 yards.
“We didn’t execute,” Fien said. “We didn’t play a good first half.”
That is an easy statement to support.
At one point, Fien had completed just 1 of 3 passes for minus-4 yards. He eventually found a rhythm but the Vandals managed to find ways to bog down - either through penalties or giving up a big play to the UNT defense. It wasn’t until their third possession that the Vandals broke into positive offensive numbers.
Thomas provided the bright spots with bullish runs through the heart of the Eagles line. He carried the ball 14 times for 65 yards, which included one never-say-die, 14-yard push that set up Idaho’s only first-half score.
He said the Vandals needed more yards on the ground to counter North Texas’ Hut Allred, who had his fourth successive 100-yard-plus game (122) and sixth of the season.
“If we could have run effectively the whole four quarters I really believe we would have had the game in control,” Thomas said.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: North Texas 24, Idaho 17 Idaho 0 7 0 10 - 17 North Texas 10 7 7 0 - 24 NT-Mills 5 run (Graham kick) NT-FG Graham 22 ID-Fien 1 run (Scott kick) NT-Waters 11 pass from Mills (Graham kick) NT-Waters 9 pass from Mills (Graham kick) ID-Scott 40 pass from Fien (Scott kick) ID-FG Scott 40 A-7,000. Idaho NT First downs 19 11 Rushes-yards 33-75 48-143 Passing 190 97 Comp-Att-Int 18-36-1 10-12-0 Return Yards 13 1 Punts-Avg. 5-27.4 3-31.0 Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-0 Penalties-Yards 5-41 3-41 Time of Possession 28:59 31:01 Individual statistics RUSHINGIdaho, Thomas 21-88, Pace 4-26, Fien 8-(minus 39). North Texas, Allred 33-122, Hampton 4-9, Cromer 4-9, Mills 7-3. PASSINGIdaho, Fien 18-36-1-190. North Texas, Mills 10-12-0-97. RECEIVINGIdaho, Wilson 6-69, Griffin 5-41, Scott 3-52, Thomas 3-32, pace 1-(-4). North Texas, Waters 6-59, Coleman 2-16, Allred 1-14, Holie 1-8.
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