BOISE – Max Komar scurried across the middle late in the third quarter and attempted to bring in a simple 5-yard catch – a play he’s made on dozens of occasions. But this time, the ball ricocheted off his chest and fell to the ground.
By then it was clear Idaho’s leading receiver on the year was in a deep funk. Robb Akey, the Vandals’ coach, could sense Komar’s frustration funk in Wednesday’s Humanitarian Bowl and made sure to talk to him on the sideline.
“I grabbed him after that one that bounced off his chest and said, ‘Hey, you still have time to catch a game-winner. You just got to keep believing – get that out of your head,’ ” Akey recalled after the Vandals’ 43-42 triumph over Bowling Green.
Sure enough, Komar came up clutch with 4 seconds left, making a skillful grab for a 16-yard touchdown to set up the winning two-point conversion. It was a satisfying moment for the senior.
“To win a game like this is huge and I couldn’t ask for a better way to go out,” the Auburn, Wash., native said.
In a last-second plea before his TD, Komar asked quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith to run a play for him. All along, quarterback Nathan Enderle said the pass was headed Komar’s way.
“I’m not sure why that happened, but Max is a competitor,” Enderle said. “When it really, really matters he’s going to come through. That’s just what he did for that touchdown.”
One crucial block
In the first quarter, Idaho linebacker JoJo Dickson rocketed through the BG offensive line and stuffed a 24-yard field-goal attempt. The block turned out to be a key play given the tense final moments.
Dickson was so far upfield on the play after racing past a blocker that the kick bounced off his left tricep, leaving a nice red bruise.
“I didn’t even pay attention to what the coaches said,” Dickson said. “I didn’t even know if I was supposed to go or not, but I (saw) it and I wasn’t about to let us go down by 10.
“It kind of pissed me off that we gave up a touchdown, so I know we needed to make a play.”
Win one for the Lav?
It wasn’t a good sign when Idaho defensive end Aaron Lavarius was writhing on the turf in pain after a running play during Bowling Green’s tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and had to be helped off.
“I heard a few cracks,” said Lavarius, his sprained left knee braced and outfitted with crutches after the game. “They felt around said it didn’t seem like anything was torn. Oh, my goodness – it was so hard to come out of the game!
“But these guys fought their butts off and every single one of the defensive players came over to me and said ‘We’re going to win this for you’ – and they took care of it.”
Well, in fact, the offense took care of it, rallying the Vandals from a 42-35 deficit in the final 32 seconds on two Nathan Enderle passes – to Komar for the touchdown and Preston Davis for the winning two-point conversion. Lavarius’ contribution to the last play was positive thinking.
“I was down on the sideline with Max Komar and Shiloh Keo, holding hands – a few western Washington boys,” he said. “We’ve been through the dregs of this program, to the bottom, and we’re on cloud nine right now.”
Very happy return
Catching the winning two-point conversion wasn’t the only reason Davis left a happier man on his second visit to Bronco Stadium than he did after his first last month – and not necessarily because the Vandals lost that game 63-25 to Boise State.
“The first time I came here, I was getting the middle finger, people banging on the bus, cursing at us,” said the sophomore from Las Vegas. “I came back not knowing what to expect and all I see is black and gold, the big cap-letter ‘I’ with the cursive ‘Vandals.’ I was shocked.
“Not to be hateful, but coming back here – I don’t like it here. It’s cold, the people are mean. But this was a totally different atmosphere and having the stands be on our side is an incredible feeling.”
Barnes makes hay
Bowling Green star receiver Freddie Barnes came into the HumBowl will all sorts of hype and left with the respect of UI coaches and players.
The Biletnikoff Award finalist had 17 catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns. Late in the first quarter, he hauled in his fifth reception, which gave him the all-time NCAA mark for most in a season.
“I tell you what, the guy is the real deal,” Akey said. “Seventeen catches – holy cow. He’s got to be tired by now, I would think.”
Don’t put me in, Coach
Freshman kicker Trey Farquhar didn’t have any input with coach Robb Akey on whether the Vandals should kick the tying extra point or go for two at game’s end.
“Pretty much he just tells me I’m in or I’m not,” Farquhar laughed.
But he certainly had no issues with the decision – or the outcome. In fact, he was jazzed enough that his ensuing kickoff sailed over the head of Bowling Green’s Jahmal Brown, who surprisingly didn’t let it roll into the end zone but chased it down and tried to return it with 4 seconds remaining.
“They told me to squib the ball, but I guess adrenaline took over,” he said. “I didn’t really do my job. Oh, well. It worked out.”
Akey said the Vandals’ win will have far-reaching implications.
“I bet you real large that we see a bump in enrollment this fall,” he said. “I think there are a number of good things that will come from this, and it’s due to the hard work of these guys right here.”