Vandals offense shows improvement

FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2012, 10:27 P.M.

MOSCOW, Idaho – All spring, Idaho’s top two quarterbacks have bounced between solid and just so-so. Offensive coordinator Jason Gesser would watch one of them make a nice throw … then follow it up with an interception or poor read.

In that respect, Friday night’s Silver and Gold football scrimmage was an hour-long microcosm of the last five weeks. But this time there was a twist: The offense showed signs of explosiveness, in the running game and through the air.

With some 750 fans on hand at the Kibbie Dome, Dominique Blackman rifled a 69-yard touchdown strike to Daniel Micheletti early in the last of 15 spring sessions for the Vandals.

On the next series, receiver Ken McRoyal took a short pass from Blackman and juked several defenders for a 26-yard gain. That came right after a 19-yard carry from No. 1 tailback Ryan Bass.

“The offense made some things happen, and that’s good,” coach Robb Akey said. “You know, our defense has been having a real strong spring, and so to see (the offense) step up and make some things happen was great.”

At the same time, Akey and Gesser pointed to the lack of consistency from the offense – and from Blackman and Taylor Davis, who are competing for the starting QB job.

Blackman completed 13 of 22 passes for 176 yards. But the 6-foot-5 transfer also tossed a puzzling interception to defensive end Quenton Bradley and gambled deep on one play while missing an open tight end in the flat.

Davis was just 4 of 10 for 33 yards. He showcased his scrambling ability and athleticism, but also threw an interception late in the scrimmage.

“It hasn’t separated itself enough that we’re coming out of spring ball (with a starter),” said Akey of the competition. “I’m not going to lie to ya – I would have hoped that it would. If we could get to the end of spring and there’s a strong separation, I think that would have been awesome.

“But the fact that they’re both doing good things I think is good. It’s not because they’re not doing things well.”

Akey said he hopes to have a starter in place early enough in fall camp to get the offense ready for the Aug. 30 season opener at home against Eastern Washington.

With Gesser starting his first year as coordinator and three new offensive assistants moving into their roles, the offense spent the spring in a transition phase. Five linemen have been hurt for all or most of the five-week camp, as has top wideout Justin Veltung.

Gesser said only about a quarter of his offensive playbook is in place. But he’s still comfortable with where the offense is at heading into the summer.

“We’ve made huge strides this spring,” he said. “Huge strides. And our guys, more than anything, I think they’ve learned how to become more mentally strong.”

The defense, meanwhile, has looked in sync throughout. Defensive end Benson Mayowa capped an impressive spring with three sacks – two of which ended with Blackman on the turf, even with a no-hit rule on the QBs – and middle linebacker Sua Tuala had nine tackles and three sacks.

Akey said Tuala, who was scarcely used last year, was the player of the camp.

“As a defense, we just kept it rolling,” Mayowa said. “Guys getting better, young guys learning. We’re just getting better as a whole. From last year we need to come back and we need to rebound. We need to go harder.”


Akey said he and his staff will start recruiting in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area, as well as in Boise, by the end of next week before branching out to other states. … Defensive tackle QuayShawne Buckley (shoulder) didn’t suit up and fellow defensive lineman Karel Kearney left with an unknown injury.

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