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Vandals find sun, offense at Silver and Gold Game marred by injury

MOSCOW, Idaho – Finally, for the first time during the Idaho football team’s trying spring, things started to come together Saturday morning.

The injury-ravaged offense cranked out big pass plays and one sustained drive. The defense still showed a dominant touch at times. And after five weeks of mostly crummy weather, the Vandals played the Silver and Gold game at their outdoor field in near-perfect, sunny conditions.

“Today we got things rolling,” wide receiver Justin Veltung said. “It’s just been hard. We’ve had so many players down that we’re just trying to get everybody together. Today it was a nice, beautiful day. … It was just a good practice, a good scrimmage.”

Yet not all the developments were rosy. Starting linebacker Robert Siavii, last year’s leading tackler, went down early in the final of 15 spring sessions with a right knee injury that had yet to be fully assessed when coach Robb Akey addressed the media. Siavii left the field and returned to the sideline with crutches.

Even without knowing all the details, Akey was clearly irritated by another injury to an integral player. Last week possible starting safety Thaad Thompson was lost for the 2011 season with a torn ACL.

“I thought we had a good scrimmage today,” Akey said. “The only thing I didn’t like was another damn injury.”

Siavii collided with running back Ryan Bass and defensive end Benson Mayowa, who was also banged up on the play, after Bass had reeled in a screen pass. Mayowa was up quickly, but Siavii – a senior-to-be from Hawaii – lingered on the ground.

“They said I might have torn some ligaments, but hopefully that is not the case,” he said. “Hopefully it’s a meniscus sprain and I’ll be back in a couple weeks. But if worst comes to worst, I’ll take my redshirt year and I’ll make sure I take advantage of that year I have off to just work.”

The Vandals’ enhanced depth has been tested all spring, and it showed in front of several hundred fans with a few previously inexperienced players stepping up.

Michael LaGrone, filling in as the starting tight end for Taylor Elmo (knee), paced the club with three catches for 50 yards. Linebacker Jeffrey Bediako, originally from the Netherlands, saw a bit more action because of Siavii’s injury and registered a sack.

“Our depth has improved all over the place,” Akey said. “We’ve got more defensive linemen than we’ve ever had. We’ve got more at most of the positions. That’s a good thing, a step in the right direction.”

One position untouched by injuries during the spring was quarterback, and starter Brian Reader saved his sharpest outing for the finale. He was 11 of 17 passing for 93 yards and led a 15-play touchdown drive – “kind of the highlight of our spring there,” he said.

Bass, a transfer from Arizona State, got the most looks at running back. After a slow start, the junior-to-be had 45 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. First-team tailback Princeton McCarty generated a net of just 4 yards on four carries.

Meanwhile, middle linebacker Tre’Shawn Robinson said the defense “has developed immensely this spring.” He was one of six Vandals with four tackles, while Mayowa had five.

“Everybody has done a real good job,” Robinson said. “Everybody knows what they’re doing. Everybody’s running to the ball full speed. … There’s no hesitation.”

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