LAS VEGAS – A young University of Idaho team did a lot of growing Saturday night at Sam Boyd Field in Las Vegas.
Did the young Vandals come of age? Not quite.
There were too many penalties, too many drops, too many busts as UNLV pulled out a 34-31 non-conference victory with Sergio Aguayo’s 41-yard field goal as time expired.
“It was a battle. It really was,” sophomore linebacker Josh Bousman, who was a menace in the Rebel backfield throughout the night, said in an Idaho press release. “We let it slip away.”
Lessons, he promised, will be learned.
“We have a lot of football left to play,” he said. “We’re going to learn from the mistakes we made. We’re going to improve.”
Junior college transfer Steven Wichman, making his first start at quarterback, threw for 390 yards on 19-of-31 passing. While he often was on the money, he also was the beneficiary of the sure hands of D.J. Smith, who hauled in six passes for 141 yards, and Wendell Octave, who had six catches and netted 146 yards but also had a couple slip through his fingers.
“We made some costly mistakes, but we can’t let this get our confidence down,” Wichman said.
It was the mistakes that left coach Nick Holt shaking his head. The Vandals fumbled twice on punt returns. There was one interception, and there were 11 penalties – often keeping Rebel drives alive or thwarting productive Vandals advances. And two missed field goals.
“We still have some things to really get better at,” Holt said. “You can’t miss field goals. You can’t drop punts. You can’t drop touchdowns. We can’t have the ball thrown over our heads.”
Nevertheless, he saw progress in a young program.
“There are some really good things,” he said. “We just have to keep working.”
UNLV quarterback Shane Steichen caused trouble early. The Rebels, largely behind Steichen, marched their opening drive 66 yards for the first score with just 50 seconds off the clock.
Steichen kept on the option on the 51-yard scoring play.
Sophomore running back Jayson Bird broke his collarbone during the first series. He will miss a minimum of six weeks and likely will redshirt. In his place, Sherman and Lumbala accounted for 128 yards rushing.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.