Expectations, were they met? Yes, and then some.
During Idaho’s 42-14 win over Drake on Saturday at the Kibbie Dome, it answered some important questions.
The optimism UI felt after two losses is now rectified after winning its first game of the season against the Bulldogs.
Here are some things we learned:
The run game has legs
One of the Vandals’ biggest question marks coming into this game was can they run the ball against a Football Championship Subdivision defense?
Idaho responded by having its best day on the ground so far, racking up 177 yards on 38 carries.
The Vandals accomplished this by using seven runners Saturday, with freshman Anthony Woods and sophomore Elisha Cummings taking the bulk of the workload with 11 carries each.
Woods getting more carries than senior Roshaun Johnson isn’t a surprise considering how well he’s played in the last two weeks. However, Cummings receiving more carries might be considered a head-scratcher.
Johnson finished the game with seven carries for 17 yards and a score.
Johnson’s 6-foot, 220-pound frame makes him a reliable goal line back. But he was expected to be the bell cow for the Vandals coming into the season.
Jason Eck said during postgame that players dictate their playing time. Woods has been a solid example of that. He’s emerged from the shadows of the depth chart these past three games to be the main guy in UI’s backfield.
Although Woods may get more carries, Johnson and Woods still make a great 1-2 punch. Johnson is more of a downhill runner, with Woods being more shifty with the ability to make plays at the second level.
Adapt to the environment
After the Indiana game, there were some serious questions about Idaho’s ability to make adjustments.
Against Drake, the Vandals scored 32 answered points after being in a 14-10 hole early in the second quarter.
“We started to pressure them a little bit more than we did during the early drives,” Eck said. “We went into man coverage and we’re more of a zone team but we played quite a bit of man this year. It’s nice to be able to do both and adjust.”
The defense set up the special teams with two turnovers, which played a factor in Idaho’s run. Jermaine Jackson returned a punt 75-yards for a touchdown and Ricardo Chavez went 4-for-4 on field goals.
It really does start here
Idaho mopped the floor with Drake, and looked really good doing it, as it should have.
It’s hard playing the “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve” game but if this game was close or if UI lost, you’d have to imagine the post-game feeling would be a lot different heading into Big Sky play this week.
It was a complicated first two weeks to really determine “who” these Vandals are.
They played two Power-Five teams competitively (Washington State and Indiana) and beat a team convincingly that they were supposed to.
Idaho’s game against Northern Arizona this Saturday will be the measuring stick for where it will be this season.
Winning that game not only will give confidence to the fanbase but will also add a layer of confidence to a team pushing for a potential playoff spot.
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