MOSCOW, Idaho – It wasn’t supposed to go this way. Not in the first game in the spiffed-up Kibbie Dome. Not after Idaho football coach Robb Akey declared his team ready for another march to the postseason.
The Vandals, appearing ill-prepared for the start of the season, were steamrolled by Bowling Green 32-15 on the opening night of the college football season.
In front of an announced crowd of 12,173 – the actual number looked smaller – the Vandals roared to a touchdown and defensive stop on the first two possessions Thursday night … then collapsed.
Bowling Green put up 30 straight points, all in the first half, and most of them came with little resistance against a club they narrowly lost to in the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl.
“Not a good game,” Akey said to open his remarks to reporters afterward. “Does that take care of it?”
Brian Reader, in his debut as the Vandals’ full-time quarterback, was 19 of 43 for 177 yards. He threw one interception, had another overruled, lost two fumbles in the fourth quarter and was sacked four times.
But he was far from the only one who had a forgettable performance. The Vandals were without starting receivers Justing Veltung (turf toe) and Preston Davis (foot), while backup receiver Landon Weaver also didn’t dress.
With three wideouts sidelined, Reader rarely found a rhythm with a different cast of re ceivers. And when he was on target, UI’s wideouts didn’t help with dropped balls.
“I don’t know how many passes we dropped tonight,” Akey said, “but we had to set a damn record.”
After Bowling Green came up empty on its first drive, quarterback Matt Schilz completed nine of his next 10 passes the rest of the first half. He shredded the often bewildered Idaho secondary, starting with a 76-yard TD pass to Eugene Cooper, who slipped past safety Gary Walker.
The Falcons of the Mid-American Conference amassed 478 yards of offense – nearly 200 more than Idaho – and manhandled the Vandals up front on both sides of the ball. UI had only one sack, from Michael Cosgrove, and it didn’t come until the second half.
“We got too complacent when we came out and stoned them on the first drive,” middle linebacker Tre’Shawn Robinson said. “We can’t get content.”
The Vandals didn’t appear flat, at least not in the opening moments. On the second play of the game, they unleashed a 51-yard trick play – a double pass from Reader to third-string QB Logan Bushnell to wideout Mike Scott.
Idaho capped its first drive with a 6-yard Reader-to-Michael LaGrone connection for the first TD.
But UI ended its next five possessions with punts (and the one after that ended with a Reader interception). All the while, BG’s punter didn’t see the field until the third quarter.
“If I recall correctly, we had a couple three-and-outs back-to-back and that really killed our momentum,” Reader said. “And when we they started scoring, it’s on us as much as it’s on the defense.”
Although the Idaho defense stiffened in the second half, the Vandals’ offense didn’t follow suit. UI got within 30-15 at the start of the fourth quarter with a 25-yard Armauni Johnson touchdown catch and two-point conversion, but the Falcons put the game out of reach by stuffing Ryan Bass in the end zone for a safety.
“There were some things, adversity-wise, that I do not like what I saw tonight,” Akey said. “And that won’t be accepted. And that is going to get itself picked up. And our people will be proud of this football team before we’re done.”