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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Vandals come up short in conference opener against Troy

MOSCOW, Idaho – An announced crowd of 13,392, on homecoming, sitting in silence.

That was the scene at the Kibbie Dome on Saturday afternoon during a third quarter that seemed like it wouldn’t end. Troy was that methodical, that unwavering – that boring? – in its dominance.

The Trojans of Alabama overwhelmed Idaho 34-13 in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams, squashing any momentum the Vandals built last week.

Idaho (2-3, 0-1) couldn’t overcome poor pass protection, poor execution on third down, way too many drops – and an athletic, physical Troy team (4-1, 1-0) that looks like it will contend with Appalachian State for the Sun Belt title.

Coach Paul Petrino dropped his first homecoming game in four years at Idaho, and other than an encouraging start to the game and solid special teams play, he found few positives.

“Overall, it was a very disappointing day,” Petrino said. “We didn’t play as well as we needed to play, and that always goes to me. That’s my fault. I’m the head coach.”

Most damning to Petrino was the Vandals’ lack of effort after the first quarter. They led 6-0 and could have easily been up 10-0 or 14-0 after their first two possessions. But like ugly losses at Washington and Washington State, they were in the game, until suddenly they’re weren’t.

“A little bit into the second quarter I thought our guys quit fighting,” Petrino said.

Troy outgained Idaho 530-255 and coasted to the win despite turning the ball over three times and botching a punt. Trojans quarterback Brandon Silvers lit up the Vandals’ secondary, passing for 373 yards and two touchdowns, and bruising running back Jordan Chunn churned out 137 yards on 20 carries.

The key blow came on the first play of the second half. Silvers lofted a perfectly thrown deep ball to John Johnson, who beat safety Russell Siavii for a 60-yard TD to push Troy’s lead to 28-6.

Fourteen seconds into the third quarter, Troy had quieted Vandals fans before they could even settle in after halftime.

“Miscommunication, that’s all that really was,” Idaho safety Jayshawn Jordan said.

The Vandals started the game with a 14-play, 6-minute drive that included sharp throws from Matt Linehan to Callen Hightower and meaty runs from Aaron Duckworth. But the possession fizzled after they had first-and-goal at the 4 and they ended up with a field goal.

On Troy’s first play from scrimmage, linebacker Kaden Elliss forced his second fumble of the year – after snagging two interceptions last week at UNLV – to give the Vandals the ball back at the Trojans 21.

But a holding call on offensive tackle Jordan Rose – he and Mason Woods grabbed the same Troy defensive lineman on the play – put Idaho in a hole. The Vandals had to settle for another Austin Rehkow field goal to go up 6-0.

“Biggest drive of the game without question,” Troy coach Neil Brown said of his team holding UI to three points after the fumble.

Linehan finished 19-of-34 passing with 166 yards and was picked off twice. He finally got Idaho into the end zone with a 22-yard TD strike to tight end Buck Cowan early in the fourth quarter.

Troy came into the game leading the nation in interceptions, and its secondary (and front seven) lived up to the hype.

“There’s a reason why they’re first in interceptions and very high in defensive statistical categories,” Cowan said.

Still, Cowan was left with this thought: “If we play the way that I think we can play, I think that game’s going into the fourth quarter.”