BOISE – In the postgame circus, with jubilant Idaho fans strewn all about Bronco Stadium, Robb Akey emerged from a mass of people on a makeshift stage and got right to the point.
“This is the best I’ve seen this stadium look,” the Vandals’ football coach roared.
Thousands of UI supporters cheered in agreement, knowing they had just witnessed a Humanitarian Bowl finish on their dreaded rival’s field that will be chiseled in their memories.
Heck, much of ESPN’s audience might not forget it, either.
Harkening back to the drama-filled close to the 1998 season, the Vandals snatched a 43-42 victory away from Bowling Green on Wednesday by rallying for a touchdown and two-point conversion with 4 seconds left.
Haunted by drops all afternoon, Max Komar made a sliding 16-yard grab to draw Idaho within 42-41. Then Akey’s bold move paid off: Preston Davis, who had caught a 50-yard heave to set up the score, secured a laser from Enderle in the back of the end zone on the two-point try.
Davis was immediately bombarded by teammates behind the uprights. Other Vandals boogied onto the field, and even a couple of the 26,726 fans in attendance slipped onto the blue turf in a premature celebration.
The Vandals’ comeback – after the Falcons of Ohio scored the go-ahead TD with 32 seconds left on Freddie Barnes’ 51-yard reception – punctuated an 8-5 season that was full of rallies.
Eleven years to the day that Idaho upended Southern Mississippi 42-35 in the HumBowl – and used a two-point conversion in overtime to beat Boise State to get there – the Vandals stirred up more magic.
It started with 26 seconds left. Enderle rolled to his left and launched a desperation pass down the sideline to Davis. The sophomore receiver, who finished with 119 receiving yards, came back for the ball and hauled it in despite defensive pass interference.
Two plays later, Komar managed to cleanly pluck Enderle’s TD fling just inches off the turf. UI had come to expect skilled catches like that from the senior wideout – not a batch of drops.
“Compared to the ones I was dropping, it was a lot harder,” Komar said. “… Nate has faith in me. If I was him, I would stop throwing to me after all those drops, making him look bad at the same time.”
Akey said he thought about going for two even before Idaho received the kickoff. He ended up calling a timeout before the play, and BG (7-6) followed suit after seeing the Vandals’ formation.
“You know, my staff had confidence in the play,” Akey said. “My players had confidence in that play. They wanted to do it. … So that was what we elected to do. We thought, ‘Why make everybody wait for overtime? Let’s get it done now.’ ”
Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson was a bit surprised the Vandals went for it, but he said it made sense seeing how the defenses had been performing.
UI in particular was unable to slow down Barnes, who set an NCAA single-season record with his 143rd reception in the first quarter and finished with 17 catches for 219 yards. Both marks were HumBowl records.
“At the end we were praying that what happened didn’t happen,” Barnes said.
After sputtering early on offense, the Vandals couldn’t have scripted a better start to the second half. UI forced a three-and-out then reeled of a 70-yard drive fueled by Vandals MVP DeMaundray Woolridge. He carried a BG defender for an 18-yard gain, then finished the TD march with an 8-yard scamper.
Things only got better from there. Safety Jeromy Jones lunged in front of receiver Chris Wright for an interception inside the Falcons’ 30, and Woolridge came right back with a lightning-quick 13-yard jaunt up the middle to make it 28-14.
Woolridge had 126 yards on 22 carries while Enderle tossed for 240 yards and four TDs.
Idaho 43, Bowling Green 42
BG—Barnes 35 pass from Sheehan (Norsic kick)
Id—Bjorvik 3 pass from Enderle (Farquhar kick)
BG—Geter 59 run (Norsic kick)
Id—Greenwood 7 pass from Enderle (Farquhar kick)
Id—Woolridge 8 run (Farquhar kick)
Id—Woolridge 13 run (Farquhar kick)
BG—Scheidler 15 pass from Sheehan (Norsic kick)
BG—Barnes 5 pass from Sheehan (Norsic kick)
Id—P.Davis 30 pass from Enderle (Farquhar kick)
BG—Geter 2 run (Norsic kick)
BG—Barnes 51 pass from Sheehan (Norsic kick)
Id—Komar 16 pass from Enderle (P.Davis pass from Enderle), :04.
|Time of Possession||29:28||30:32|
RUSHING—Bowling Green, Geter 14-96, Hodges 1-26, Sheehan 8-25,
Barnes 1-3. Idaho, Woolridge 22-126, McCarty 9-75, Komar 1-6,
Jackson 4-6, Enderle 2-(minus 1).
PASSING—Bowling Green, Sheehan 33-47-1-387, Barnes 1-1-0-1. Idaho,
RECEIVING—Bowling Green, Barnes 17-219, C.Wright 7-72, Geter 5-65,
Scheidler 2-16, Hutson 2-9, Hodges 1-7. Idaho, P.Davis 4-119, Shaw 4-61, Greenwood 3-19, Hardy 1-17, Komar 1-16, McCarty 1-5, Bjorvik 1-3.