MOSCOW, Idaho – UC Davis’ 27-17 comeback win against Idaho was an object lesson for the Vandals in the limits of backups.
Idaho played with eight reserves, three on the offensive line and one each at tight end, safety, kicker/punter, long snapper and holder.
Vandals coach Paul Petrino said he could not legally confirm whether COVID-19 had run rampant through the Vandals.
But he didn’t deny it.
As compromised as the Vandals were, they still held a 17-7 lead with just over 9 minutes left in the third quarter, in large measure with a relentless ball-control offense that kept UC Davis’ talented offense on the sideline.
Nate Azzopardi had already claimed a starting job for the Vandals at quick guard at the beginning of the season. Against the Aggies, he was joined on the line by fellow freshmen Elijah Sanchez at quick tackle, Greyson Harwood at center and Josh Guzik at strong tackle. Freshman Jake Cox started at tight end.
Petrino said he called a style of game in the first half to try to protect the newcomers.
“Those freshmen, I’m proud of them,” Petrino said. “They played their hearts out. They did some really good things. We kept the ball for 44 plays in the first half to (the Aggies’) 23. I am super proud of those freshmen that went out there and played in their first game. But when we have that lead, we’ve got to win. That starts with me.”
Idaho failed to convert several third downs in the third quarter, and the Aggies took advantage.
Hunter Rodrigues threw for a pair of touchdowns – a 7-yarder to Jared Harrell and an 11-yard scoring pass to Carson Crawford – to give UC Davis its first lead, 20-17.
The Aggies closed the door when Lan Larison finished a seven-play, 74-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run with 3:12 left .
The Vandals’ last bid in the final minute ended when Mike Beaudry’s pass to Hayden Hatten was intercepted by linebacker Connor Airey, who cut in front of the throw.
In his debut as a starter, Rodrigues finished 23-for-29 passing for 243 yards and three touchdowns . Crawford caught two touchdowns and finished the day with eight catches for 120 yards. Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. kept the Vandals’ defense under pressure, rushing for 146 yards on 26 carries.
Tre Walker, who led Idaho with 19 tackles and 1½ tackles for loss, said he was impressed by Gilliam.
“He’s a great running back,” Walker said.
But Walker enjoyed the challenge of keeping Gilliam from collapsing the perimeter of the Vandals’ defense and keeping him out of the end zone.
“Iron sharpens iron,” Walker said. “Playing against somebody like him, it makes the game fun.”
Beaudry completed 27 of 37 passes for 236 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown. He was also Idaho’s leading rusher with 44 yards on eight carries.
Beaudry found fullback Logan Kendall for a second-quarter touchdown. Kendall, who had already kept a drive alive with a key first down, spun out of a tackle on the way to a 19-yard race to the end zone.
At 264 pounds, spinning is not the first weapon in his arsenal.
“It was good to get the ball and try to break some tackles,” Kendall said.
That put the Vandals up 10-0, after backup kicker Logan Prescott opened scoring with a 47-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Prescott was replacing national special teams player of the week Cade Coffey.
Prescott benefited from the smooth delivery of backup long snapper Hogan Hatten and the spot-on placement of backup holder Sean McCormick.
“Logan did a good job,” Petrino said. “Sean McCormick did a nice job holding, and also in the short snaps. Hogan has done that before. A lot of new guys played on special teams, too, and we had a nice return.”
That was the 40-yarder Nick Romano broke off in the third quarter.
Beaudry also found Romano with a sideline throw that went for 49 yards. On first-and-goal at the 9-yard line, Beaudry rushed for Idaho’s final points.
Kendall, the veteran fullback, echoed Petrino’s assessment of Idaho’s young offensive line.
“I think those young guys did a great job,” he said.
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