COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Idaho forced two first-quarter turnovers against No. 9 Texas A&M on Saturday night and couldn’t convert either.
After missing those early chances, the Vandals wouldn’t have many more, and the Aggies went on to a 37-7 win.
Cyrus Gray had three touchdowns and 101 yards rushing, and Ryan Tannehill threw for 337 yards and two scores in less than three quarters to lead the Aggies to the victory.
“We had a few opportunities, but left some plays on the field,” Idaho coach Robb Akey said.
Texas A&M had tacked on 27 points before halftime – thanks to two touchdowns by Gray – to take a comfortable lead.
“Forcing the turnovers was part of the game plan,” Idaho linebacker Tre’Shawn Robinson said. “If you pressure, the quarterback will be jittery to get the ball out faster, and it worked in the first half.”
Gray finished with 101 yards rushing for his ninth straight 100-yard game, dating to last season.
He had a 17-yard touchdown run and a 3-yard reception for another score in the second quarter. His 1-yard run midway through the third quarter pushed the Aggies’ lead to 37-0.
With about 3 minutes left in the quarter, Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman replaced Tannehill with freshman Jameill Showers.
Idaho couldn’t do anything offensively for most of the game and had to punt 10 times. The Vandals converted two of 14 third downs and had nine penalties for 66 yards.
“We have to grow, and our football team will grow because of this game,” Akey said.
The Vandals’ only touchdown came on a 1-yard run on fourth down by Troy Vital late in the fourth quarter.
“Texas A&M is a very athletic group,” Idaho quarterback Brian Reader said. “They are one of the fastest teams I’ve ever seen and one of the strongest teams that do all of the right things. We just didn’t execute when we needed to.”
Reader was 17 of 29 for 131 yards, and Mike Scott had eight receptions for 97 yards.
Randy Bullock made field goals of 25, 42 and 46 yards, but his attempt from 44 yards in the fourth quarter was wide left.
Gray got A&M’s offense going after a slow and sloppy start when he ran 17 yards for a touchdown that made it 17-0 in the second quarter. Bullock’s 42-yard field goal later in the second quarter stretched the lead to 20-0.
A&M got the ball back after Reader threw three straight incompletions on Idaho’s next drive, and Gray made it 27-0 when he scored on a 3-yard pass from Tannehill just before halftime.
The Aggies were on the Idaho 20 on their first drive when Tannehill’s pass was tipped and intercepted by Andre Ferguson. The Vandals couldn’t convert and had to punt.
Idaho’s Robinson forced a fumble by Christine Michael late in the first quarter. But Idaho couldn’t take advantage of this miscue either and had to punt again.
“I am proud of our defensive players,” Akey said. “I thought our guys … made some good plays. Our defense spent a lot of time on the field. They played about three games tonight.”
Akey believes the game will be beneficial for his team, despite the lopsided score.
“I thought our football team competed and responded to adversity better than I’ve seen them all season long,” Akey said. “Our guys are fired up and ready to get into conference play.”
Idaho opens Western Athletic Conference play next week against Fresno State.