MOSCOW, Idaho – Jermaine Jackson took the measure of Drake on Saturday when he got behind a cornerback and slid away from a safety at the edge of the end zone to grab a 20-yard touchdown pass from Gevani McCoy on Idaho’s first possession and give the Vandals a 7-0 lead in their home opener.
But the 0-3 Bulldogs didn’t blink, scoring back-to-back touchdowns to go ahead 14-7 early in the second quarter.
Although Idaho steadied itself and regained a 20-14 advantage by halftime, the lead seemed precarious.
But early in the third quarter, Jackson swept away any doubts . He fielded a punt at his 21-yard line, got a block, juked a Bulldogs defender near midfield, made it to the corner and outraced everyone on a 79-yard return for a touchdown. A conversion pass from McCoy to Zach Borisch gave the Vandals (1-2) a 24-14 lead they eventually extended to 42-14 for their first win following close losses to Washington State and Indiana .
“It’s a credit to the people blocking for me,” Jackson said.
On Idaho’s final scoring drive, Jackson followed Eli Cummings’ block and carried 64 yards to set up Cummings’ touchdown run two plays later.
Jackson’s stat line of 192 all-purpose yards, including 72 rushing yards, 28 receiving yards and a touchdown, and 92 punt return yards and a touchdown was impressive.
“I was just showing everybody what we can do. Just having fun with my teammates,” Jackson said .
But the Vandals had many highlights. Tight end Connor Whitney led Idaho with six pass receptions for 70 yards. Anthony Woods contributed 81 yards rushing on 11 carries.
McCoy was efficient, completing 17 of 23 passes for 190 yards and the early touchdown. Freshman Jack Layne, who spelled him on a couple of occasions, connected on 5 of 7 throws for 49 yards.
On defense, Fa’Avae Fa’Avae and Paul Moala led Idaho with eight tackles apiece. Fa’Avae also broke up a pass. When Drake, trailing 17-14, threatened to retake the lead, Idaho defensive lineman Devante Keys got a hit on Drake quarterback Ian Corwin and disrupted a pass that Moala intercepted.
The punt team also set up a Vandals field goal when Hogan Hatten blocked Luke Williams’ punt on the Drake 23-yard line and Sean McCormick recovered . Five plays later, Ricardo Chavez finished the drive with a 36-yard field goal. It was among four he kicked, including a long of 44 yards in the third quarter.
Vandals coach Jason Eck was pleased with Idaho’s ability to withstand Drake’s early and unexpected lead.
“The guys kind of kicked it in gear to finish the second quarter,” Eck said.
Idaho shut out Drake in the second half.
As the game wore on, Idaho also played more man coverage in the secondary to devote more bodies to pressuring Corwin, who finished 9 of 21 for 150 yards, with the interception and two sacks.
“I thought we had better personnel,” Eck said. “Let’s man them up.”
The Vandals turn to pursuing their goals for the remainder of the season against Big Sky Conference foes. Idaho will play at Northern Arizona at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“We can coach these guys up a little harder after a win,” Eck said.
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