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Troy upends Vandals

John Blanchette Correspondent
MOSCOW, Idaho – In yet another Idaho loss in a football season full of them, there was bound to be some déjà vu for the Vandals on Saturday. But to coach Paul Petrino, it was the worst kind. “It felt like what today was, was last year’s team,” Petrino said in the wake of a Vandals meltdown in a 34-17 loss to Troy in the 2014 Kibbie Dome finale. “We’d made so many strides and were playing so much better and doing better. There’s no use sugar-coating it – we were bad. We were terrible today. Blame me.” He said that more than once, but this was hardly a one-man job. Even if all but two of their nine losses have been two-score affairs, the Vandals hit rock bottom in almost every respect and came away with a dreary result in a dreary dome populated by a dreary crowd of 8,535, or less. The defense reverted to the big-play shame it’s experienced all season, surrendering touchdown passes of 41 and 51 yards from Brandon Silvers to Bryan Holmes, but also four runs of 20 or more yards. The final accounting was 524 yards – to a team that’s next-to-last in the Sun Belt Conference in offense. Even so, the Vandals (1-9, 1-6 Sun Belt) were a mere touchdown behind when the offense went south – quarterback Matt Linehan throwing three third-quarter interceptions that likely had the few fans who were still interested wondering why Petrino didn’t summon the other half of his quarterback shuttle, Chad Chalich. But Chalich, nursing a hip injury sustained last week against San Diego State, wasn’t available, though he suited and warmed up. “I asked him all week to let me know if he could or couldn’t (play),” Petrino said, “and he couldn’t play today.” Linehan did throw his first touchdown pass since Sept. 27 – a screen to Josh McCain that went for 64 yards. But that was one of just 14 completions in 36 attempts. Half of those went to McCain, but his second-favorite receiver turned out to be Troy’s Montres Kitchens, who had all three of those picks. Two were crushers. Tony Lashley’s block of a Troy punt had set up the Vandals on the Trojan 10 shortly after halftime. Idaho got as far as the 2 when Linehan ran out of field on a fourth-down rollout and threw it to Kitchens in a crowd in the end zone. “Just trying to make a play,” said Petrino, who did not make players available for postgame interviews for a second straight home game. Kitchens had a highlight reel one-handed snag of a long pass to a triple-covered McCain on Idaho’s next possession, then capped his night with a pick-6 touchdown from 28 yards out, though Petrino said the intended receiver “cut off his route.” Troy (3-8, 3-4) then used up 6 minutes, 35 seconds to get an insurance field goal. Led by Quayshawne Buckley, the Idaho defense finally found its footing in the second half – getting two stops and surviving a missed Troy field goal to keep the Vandals close. But they never did solve sophomore running back Jordan Chunn, who rumbled through and over the Vandals for 193 yards. The telltale numbers were third downs: Troy converted 9 of 20, Idaho just 1 of 11. “God awful,” Petrino said. All in all, it was a dismal dome farewell for 19 Vandal seniors, and Petrino offered that “we got outhit, outhustled and outcoached … It’s on me, but they have to look in the mirror, too.” The Vandals have another bye week before concluding their season Nov. 29 with a trip to Appalachian State.
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