PULLMAN – Their quarterback rotation backfired. Their injury-ravaged defense provided little resistance to Washington State’s passing attack. And their special teams looked wobbly – again.
For as sharp as the Idaho Vandals were in the first half last week in a near-upset of Northern Illinois, they looked bewildered and outmatched in the opening 30 minutes in 42-0 loss to the Cougars.
What went wrong for Idaho in the first half? In a word, everything.
The Vandals (0-4) piled up eight penalties, most of which were procedural. Josh McCain threw across his body into double coverage for UI’s first interception of the season, which set up the Cougs’ second TD. And Kris Olugbode’s fumble late in the second quarter – after three penalties put Idaho in a third-and-27 – gave WSU the ball at Idaho’s 20.
On the next play, Connor Halliday found Vince Mayle to make it 21-0.
The turnovers hurt, but coach Paul Petrino said the Vandals’ offensive problems boiled down to one thing: an inability to protect up front.
“We weren’t blocking good enough,” the first-year coach said. “They did a good job of defeating blocks and they tackled well. There’s not a whole bunch to analyze – they kicked our butt.”
Idaho starting QB Chad Chalich completed his first six passes and was 17 of 23 for 167 yards. But McCain was ineffective from the start. In addition to his pick, he recovered his own fumble and took a 17-yard sack early in the second half.
The combination of Chalich and McCain was lethal versus NIU, particularly early when Idaho jumped out to a 28-14 lead. But playing against the much quicker Washington State defense, UI’s read option was snuffed out and they often went backward because of penalties.
“They were beating us up front,” center Mike Marboe said. “If you can’t move people up front, you can’t move the ball.”
If the offensive woes weren’t enough, the Vandals played without three starters on defense because of injury: cornerback Solomon Dixon, defensive end Quinton Bradley and safety Trey Williams.
The loss of half of their starting secondary especially stung – Dixon’s replacement, Delency Parham, was called for pass interference in the first half and was repeatedly burned. He was replaced after halftime by Christian Whitehead.
Safety D’Mario Carter, starting in place of Williams, came up with a first-half interception of Halliday. But he took a bad angle on the Cougars’ first touchdown, a 43-yard strike to Gabe Marks and later lost Mayle on a crossing route in the end zone that resulted in a TD.
Despite the lapses by the secondary, Petrino was pleased with the defense’s effort.
“I thought our defense did a good job all game,” he said. “Obviously they had some plays on us, but we didn’t take advantage of when the defense did play well. We just took turns killing ourselves on offense.”
Special teams also haunted the Vandals. On their possession, they converted a fake punt pass – but Aaron Lazaro was called for a false start and the Vandals opted to punt.
Idaho again had misadventures in punt return coverage, usually on low line-drive punts from Austin Rehkow. And its kick returners made questionable decisions taking the ball out of the end zone.
It all added up to a miserable night for the Vandals in their first border battle with WSU since 2007.