MOSCOW, Idaho – The anguish on Justin Veltung’s face couldn’t be hidden. Even with his helmet on. Even with a coach and teammate trying to console him as he walked off the Kibbie Dome field after his final home game.
Idaho’s nightmare season hit another low Saturday with a 34-27 loss to Texas-San Antonio, and it was Veltung’s inexplicable fumbled punt with just over 2 minutes left that thwarted a last-minute Vandals’ rally.
Instead of Idaho taking over near midfield with a chance to tie, UTSA (7-4, 2-3 WAC) recovered and bled the last 2:28 off the clock to clinch a winning season in its first year as a Football Bowl Subdivision provisional team.
Idaho (1-10, 1-4) lost its fifth straight game – and third in a row since Jason Gesser replaced Robb Akey as coach.
The Vandals’ undoing on Senior Day was clear enough: 12 penalties for 100 yards, multiple breakdowns on defense and most glaring of all, three turnovers.
“It’s not rocket science,” said Gesser, whose team leads the FBS in turnovers (35) lost. “We beat ourselves. We gave them every opportunity, and they took advantage of it.”
After Idaho forced a three-and-out, Veltung – an explosive kick returner before being hampered by injuries the last two years – went to field the punt.
But the ball hit the turf in front of him and took a UTSA bounce. With three Roadrunners surrounding the ball as it trickled into UTSA territory, Veltung lunged to try to grab it.
It was a risky move, and it backfired.
Afterward, senior receiver Mike Scott and cornerbacks coach Torey Hunter walked arm-in-arm with Veltung as the last three members of the team to head into the locker room.
“Justin and I are very close on and off the field,” said Scott, who had a career-high 10 catches and 116 yards. “I told him, ‘We win as a team and we lose as a team. The game is not predicated on one play.’ ”
Gesser, who acknowledged that a win might have helped his cause in earning the permanent head job, gambled with two fake punts and an onside kick. Both fakes worked, and the last – a 64-yard pass from punter Bobby Cowan to Camryn Harris early in the fourth quarter – put Idaho at the Roadrunners’ 2-yard line.
But Idaho was called for a delay of game and holding on back-to-back plays and had to settle for a game-tying field goal.
Choate will speak with UI<p>FootballScoop.com reported Saturday that Idaho athletic director Rob Spear will interview Washington State linebackers coach Jeff Choate for the head coach job. In September, Choate criticized UI for playing BCS opponents “for a paycheck” and suggested the Vandals should drop down to the FCS level.
Around the WAC
Utah St. 48, (19) La. Tech 41 (O T): Chuckie Keeton threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns, and the Aggies (9-2, 5-0) beat the Bulldogs (9-2, 4-1) in overtime in Ruston, La.
Navy 21, Texas St. 10: Noah Copeland ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Midshipmen to a victory over the Bobcats in Annapolis, Md.
San Jose St. 20, BYU 14: David Fales passed for 305 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Spartans (9-2) to a win over the Cougars (6-5) in San Jose, Calif.
Riley Nelson passed for 334 yards and a score for BYU.
|San Jose St.||4||1||9||2|
|New Mexico St.||0||5||1||9|