MOSCOW, Idaho – It was a great day for the color scheme, a situation the Idaho Vandals certainly hope continues.
In distant Iowa City Saturday, the black and gold Iowa Hawkeyes handily defeated Idaho’s next opponent, the crimson and white Indiana Hoosiers, 34-6. At approximately the same time in the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, black and gold Idaho manhandled crimson and white Simon Fraser University even worse, 68-0 in a season-opening game for both teams.
The outmanned team from Burnaby, British Columbia, was young, smaller than Idaho at most positions and slower. On almost every play that went past the line of scrimmage Simon Fraser was late in closing on Vandals’ receivers and runners. The Vandals took several strides of momentum before they contacted a defender. The Vandals rushed for 316 yards and passed for 277 on the way to nine touchdowns. They also scored on Logan Prescott’s 21-yard field goal and on a safety when Simon Fraser punter Sam Davenport, lined up in his end zone, took the snap and intentionally stepped out of bounds with his team trailing 21-0 near the end of the first quarter.
Idaho’s defense put relentless pressure on Simon Fraser, which managed only a net 13 yards rushing in 44 attempts and 77 yards passing, with an interception. Quarterback Brandon Niksich was sacked five times. In reflecting on that dominance, Vandals noseguard Rahsaan Crawford, who accounted for one of those sacks, noted boxer Mike Tyson would stare at an opponent until he broke eye contact. “Then he knew he got him,” Crawford said. Across the line of scrimmage Saturday “you see those wide eyes … they’re not coming off the ball like they’re supposed to. You know you’ve got ’em.”
Crawford and most of the defensive mainstays spent most of the second half on the sidelines.
“I’ve been here since 2016, and (before Saturday) I never, ever came off after what, one drive in the second half?” he said.
Idaho’s biggest miscue was losing a fumble on the Simon Fraser 1-yard-line when quarterback Mike Beaudry, under center, mishandled a snap. The Vandals were up 33-0 at the time.
“We can’t fumble the ball on the 1-yard line. That can’t happen,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said.
It was the most significant blemish in a game the Vandals played with great effort and with the poise to get only 15 yards in penalties, Petrino said.
“We played clean football, the way it should be played. Don’t beat yourself, no matter who you play,” he said.
Idaho went with three quarterbacks. Based on his 61 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown, and 7-of-12 passing for 161 yards and two touchdowns, it appeared freshman C.J. Jordan strengthened his case to be the starter. Petrino said he would announce who that was before Idaho opens its Big Sky Conference season at UC Davis.
“C.J. did some really good things,” Petrino said, citing in particular a first-quarter throw to Michael Noil that Jordan darted between a pair of defensive backs and that went for 13 yards. “That was a great pass. That was good coverage.”
Petrino added that despite the goal-line fumble, “I thought Michael (Beaudry) improved on some things, too. He did a good job.”
Idaho’s third quarterback, Zach Borisch, started the game. Although he didn’t throw a pass, he rushed for 34 yards. He also set up a touchdown in the third quarter, taking a snap inside the 5-yard line, feinting toward the line for a step and pitching to to the corner to Andre Carter, who cruised into the end zone untouched. Petrino said Idaho’s opponents will have to prepare for Borisch’s running ability all season.
Hayden Hatten led Idaho’s receivers with a pair of catches that went for 106 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown play where Jordan hit him in stride with a short pass over the middle. Hatten’s momentum carried him past one defender and no one else got near him as he went the remaining 68 yards to the end zone to give the Vandals a 61-0 lead.
No player was more dominant, however, than Idaho’s Roshaun Johnson, who led all rushers with 87 yards and scored three touchdowns.
“I’m so proud of him, how much he’s matured as a young man,” Petrino said. “He’s selfless.”
Johnson finished off a first-quarter drive with a 6-yard scoring run. In the second quarter he stiff-armed a defender and went untouched 37 yards for a score.
Just before halftime, he spun away from a tackle inside the 5-yard line and carried Simon Fraser’s 185-pound cornerback Jerrell Cummings with him into the end zone to put the Vandals in front 40-0.
Johnson also aptly characterized what it felt like to be on the winning side of such a mismatch.
“It’s a lot of energy, a lot of energy,” he said . “On the sidelines, everybody’s got a smile on their face. It’s fun.”
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