MOSCOW, Idaho – A 4-play drive to open the game, highlighted by a 47-yard quarterback run by Zach Borisch to the 1-yard line, signaled these were not your father’s Idaho Vandals.
More like your grandfather’s Vandals in the 1980s, when Idaho was scoring points in the Kibbie Dome at a dizzying pace and rising to the challenge on defense to preserve Big Sky Conference victories while winning four league championships.
With 2 seconds remaining, Vandals senior safety Tyrese Dedmon and seemingly the rest of the defensive backfield that had gathered in a corner of the end zone elevated as one to bat down a desperate 50-yard heave from hotly pursued quarterback Davis Alexander to Mataio Talalemotu to seal Idaho’s 42-35 homecoming win against Portland State.
Between those events surged a volatile, entertaining battle that looked at first as though it would be an Idaho walkover. Then it didn’t as the Vikings scored 21 fourth-quarter points to terrify the crowd before falling just short.
The victory returned Idaho to the win column, where it hasn’t been since a season-opening 68-0 rout of Simon Fraser. Idaho is 2-3 overall, 1-1 in the Big Sky. PSU slipped to 2-4, 1-2 in the conference.
“This was a big win. We’re 1-1 in the league. Everything is out there in front of us,’ Idaho coach Paul Petrino said.
“Our offense played great in the first half. Our defense saved us in the second half.”
When Idaho tore through PSU on the opening drive in 1:40 and shrugged off the Vikings’ answering touchdown to build a commanding 35-7 lead it appeared the rout was on. Idaho seamlessly alternated quarterbacks Mike Beaudry and Borisch until Beaudry was banged up in the second half, and both quarterbacks starred. Beaudry went 10 of 15 for 162 yards and a touchdown, and Borisch completed his lone pass for 46 yards and a score. Beaudry connected with Terez Traynor on a 42-yard scoring pass in the first quarter, and Borisch linked up with roommate Dalton Cash for a 46-yard TD in the second quarter. The Vikings’ secondary came up to stop the run when Borisch sprinted out, and Cash put 5 yards of daylight between him and a cornerback before Borisch launched a pass.
It’s something Idaho worked on leading up to the game. Borisch said Petrino predicted to him: “If you want to get your buddy a touchdown, he’s going to be wide open running down the field.”
Borisch even joined Nick Romano on kick returns and delivered a block that allowed Romano to spring a 38-yarder. He said he found out from Petrino only Friday evening he would be doing that.
“Yes, sir. I’ll get it done, sir,” he told Petrino.
But a roughing the passer call against Cameron Townsend gave PSU a first down with 3 seconds remaining in the second quarter. An interception by nickel back Sean McCormick was nullified when defensive end Charles Akanno was called offside, and on an untimed down the Vikings scored at the end of the first half when Alexander zipped a pass from the 11-yard line to Beau Kelly in the end zone.
PSU fielded the opening kickoff of the second half, but it couldn’t sustain its momentum. Idaho shut out PSU in the third quarter.
“We were giving them different looks and definitely confusing the quarterback,” free safety Tommy McCormick said.
The Vikings rallied, though, as Alexander punched over a score from the 1-yard line. After Idaho went three-and-out Alexander and Talalemotu capped a drive with a 29-yard connection, and the Vikings pulled within a touchdown (35-28).
Beaudry and Traynor marched Idaho to the 8-yard-line. On back-to-back carries, Roshaun Johnson reached the end zone to improve the Vandals’ lead to 42-28.
With just under 5 minutes to play, Alexander and Talalemotu connected one final time from 26 yards out to make the score 42-35.
Alexander had a stellar performance on 32-of-48 passing for 424 yards and four touchdowns. Talalemotu made 12 receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns. PSU fed Idaho’s defense a steady diet of Malik Walker on the ground in the second half. He finished as the game’s leading rusher with 132 yards on 26 carries.
Borisch led Idaho with 83 yards on the ground and a touchdown, and Aundre Carter rushed for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns before leaving the game in the second half with an injury. Roshaun Johnson took over for the Vandals, and in addition to his touchdown he contributed 36 yards on nine rushing attempts.
With the game winding down and holding on to its seven-point lead, Idaho set out on a clock-eating drive that had it perched on the PSU 5-yard line on second down with 35 seconds to play. Petrino said Borisch had never practiced the victory formation. But he is sure-handed, so rather than have him run a play he had never run before, the coach let him carry into the line. Borisch fumbled, and the Vikings recovered at the 3-yard line. They got to midfield in five plays as Idaho’s defense played to prevent anything getting past it. From there, Dedmon and the rest of the secondary denied PSU a final opportunity to tie when they knocked down Alexander’s final, desperate pass.
“It’s exciting to get a win,” Borisch said, “no matter how we do it.”
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