Idaho’s performance in the season-opening loss to Washington State last Thursday seemed to affirm what Nick Holt has been saying all along.
The Vandals appear to be improved on both sides of the ball and on special teams, but they clearly remain a work in progress.
“We’re just better everywhere,” said Holt, whose Vandals visit UNLV on Saturday. “I wasn’t surprised at anything. We’ve got a chance if we keep doing what we’re supposed to. It more verified what I thought that we’re going to be OK.”
That also applies at quarterback, where senior Michael Harrington and junior Steven Wichman had quality stretches. Harrington started the opener, but Wichman saw the majority of playing time and posted better statistics.
Did Wichman do enough to displace Harrington as the starter?
“We don’t need to make a decision today, but you saw it,” Holt said Sunday. “The problem with Wichman was seven times we weren’t in the right formation. He has to get that right or it’s going to bite him. We called it wrong in the huddle or we relayed it wrong. It was stuff you wouldn’t notice as a fan.”
But coaches notice. Whoever gets the starting nod, Holt wants to see more production.
Harrington opened strong, completing his first six passes, including 5 of 5 on Idaho’s initial scoring drive, which was aided by a WSU roughing- the-punter penalty. But Idaho made just one first down in Harrington’s next four series.
“He was solid; he looked good on the (touchdown) drive,” Holt said. “Some of it wasn’t his fault, but the quarterback has to move the offense and the team, that’s the way the position is.”
Elsewhere, Holt was pleased for the most part with Idaho’s kicking game and coverage units. The defense yielded 436 yards, including 152 yards on two touchdown plays. Throw out those two plays and WSU gained 4.6 yards per play instead of 6.8.
Every play counts, however, and Holt bemoaned a missed tackle on Jerome Harrison’s 80-yard touchdown run and expressed concern that WSU receivers were open deep several times against the secondary. Idaho didn’t register a quarterback sack.
Offensively, Idaho grinded out 266 total yards, but failed to produce a double-digit run and had only one passing play of more than 20 yards. J.C. transfers Daniel Smith and Matt Askew combined for 14 of the team’s 19 receptions.
Idaho burned up its first-half allotment of three timeouts just seconds into the second quarter.
“Guys were misaligned,” said Holt, pointing out that Idaho played a number of newcomers and J.C. transfers on offense. “It’s going to get a lot better. We have to do a better job of getting (plays) in earlier.”
The timeouts could have come in handy as Idaho tried to stop WSU’s offense from running out the last 71 seconds of the first half.
Offensive tackle Hank Therien (strained neck muscle) might play Saturday against UNLV. Sophomore Desmond Clark filled in when Therien was hurt in the second half. Cornerback Jason Martin didn’t start Thursday but played quite a bit. However, he re-tweaked a high ankle sprain and will be evaluated at mid-week.
Sophomore safety Jevon Butler, who had knee surgery last month and missed the first game, practiced Saturday and should be available against UNLV. Holt said Butler will compete for the starting job with J.C. transfer Tone Taupule.
UNLV visits New Mexico tonight, leaving the Rebels a short turnaround before entertaining Idaho on Saturday… . The Vandals scored in every quarter against WSU. That only happened twice last season. (Arkansas State, Eastern Michigan).
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