MOSCOW, Idaho – It was one of the most remarkable and bizarre touchdowns Idaho has scored in years. Unfortunately for the Vandals, it was also one of the only completions down the field for quarterback Taylor Davis on Saturday.
Other than a wild deflected touchdown midway through the first quarter and another promising performance from running back James Baker, Idaho went quietly in a 37-21 loss to future Sun Belt foe Texas State.
An announced Dad’s Weekend crowd of 15,088 at the Kibbie Dome watched the Vandals fall to 1-8 in Paul Petrino’s first season as coach.
“I fully expected us to play really well and I thought at times we did play well,” Petrino said. “We’re just not quite there yet. It’s still a process.”
The fans in attendance (probably closer to 10,000) got a treat on UI’s second offensive series when the Vandals tied the game at 7 after a fortunate sequence of events.
With Idaho driving after a Texas State sack was negated by a defensive holding call, Davis threw a hard pass in the direction of Dezmon Epps. The ball sailed over Epps’ head, ricocheted off of the shoulder pad of teammate Najee Lovett, who was trailing Epps on the play, and landed in the hands of Deon Watson in the end zone.
It was the first career TD for Watson, a redshirt freshman from Coeur d’Alene. And it energized the crowd and the Vandals’ defense on the next series.
Idaho stayed within two scores of the Bobcats, an 11-point favorite, into the fourth quarter. But Texas State (6-3) was never threatened after halftime.
Davis, the team’s third-string QB, started for the second consecutive week in place of the injured Chad Chalich and Josh McCain. He was 20 of 35 for 181 yards.
Yet Idaho generated just three plays of 20 or more yards.
The Vandals’ defense, meanwhile, held Texas State’s deceptive option running game to 108 yards, a huge improvement from last year’s 38-7 loss to the Bobcats. But true freshman QB Tyler Jones was 13-of-14 passing in the first half and 9 of 9 for the game on third down.
He finished with 228 passing yards – a total that was helped by Idaho’s poor open-field tackling – and two touchdowns.
Petrino said the Vandals were committed to stopping the run and making Texas State beat them through the air. Which is what ended up happening.
A key moment came early in the third quarter, with Idaho down nine points. Petrino opted to keep his offense on the field on fourth-and-5 at Idaho’s 38. Davis dropped back to pass, but with no one open, he drifted toward the sideline and came 2 yards short of the first-down marker.
After the turnover on downs, Texas State scored on a 20-yard touchdown run by Tim Gay.
“We didn’t get it, so blame it on me,” Petrino said. “But I just thought we had to stay on the field.”
Going for it on fourth down wasn’t the only curious call from Petrino. Trailing by 16 with 10 minutes left, the coach brought in freshman Austin Rehkow to attempt a 47-yard field goal on fourth-and-3.
Rehkow, whose long this year is 41 yards, missed the kick and Texas State responded with a 67-yard TD pass on a broken play to put the game out of reach.