MOSCOW, Idaho – Late in the third quarter, before Idaho unraveled in a 42-13 loss to San Jose State, redshirt freshman linebacker Elan Richard timed a jump perfectly at the line of scrimmage and swatted an attempted pass to the turf.
It was the best play of Richard’s short career, one that could have jump-started the Vandals, who were down by just eight points.
But as the whistle blew, SJSU left tackle David Quessenberry drove Richard to the ground and pinned him down for a moment – a move Idaho’s Benson Mayowa thought was excessive. So Mayowa retaliated, shoving Quessenberry and drawing a 15-yard personal foul penalty.
Two plays later, with some of the announced crowd of 14,429 at the Kibbie Dome still booing the officials, the Spartans scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass from David Fales to Chandler Jones.
The score was part of 28 unanswered points for SJSU in a 12-minute span, an outburst that sent Idaho fans streaming to the exits and squashed any hope that Jason Gesser would enjoy a triumphant debut as the Vandals’ head football coach.
Idaho (1-8, 1-3 WAC) had plenty of defensive breakdowns – and a pick-six from quarterback Logan Bushnell – to help the Spartans (7-2, 3-1) shake free and become bowl-eligible. But Mayowa’s personal foul and a subsequent 15-yard penalty on Trey Williams were costly.
Afterward Gesser said he won’t tolerate lapses in judgment like Mayowa’s.
“The one on Benson, he can’t do it. Bottom line,” said Gesser, who replaced Robb Akey two weeks ago on an interim basis. “These guys need to start understanding that holding their emotions and not reacting is going to help us better than reacting.”
Discipline issues have cropped up throughout the season. UI played Saturday without starting quarterback Dominique Blackman, who was dismissed last week after multiple failed drug tests. And others, including Mayowa, have sat out at least a game for undisclosed suspensions.
Asked how he was addressing the problem, Gesser said it’s simple: “If guys don’t do what we want them to do, they’re not going to play. Bottom line.”
The Vandals were anemic offensively, especially in the first quarter when they turned three Spartans turnovers into just seven points.