Well Idaho fans, you can celebrate.
No more questioning what is and what isn’t a moral victory — the Vandals officially have one in the win column as they beat Drake 42-14 in a nonconference game Saturday before 5,804 fans at the Kibbie Dome.
“That was a good win for us,” Idaho coach Jason Eck said. “The boys from Drake, the way we think of Indiana and Washington State, is how they look at us. They don’t play a Power Five team. We’re the big team that they play.”
Idaho did give fans a bit of a scare by putting itself in a 14-10 hole in the second quarter. The Vandals responded by scoring 32 answered points en route to the victory.
“I think we really responded well in the second quarter,” Eck said. “The guys really kicked it into gear and put us in a good position to respond.”
Here are some takeaways from the win:
All three phases
Eck has preached the importance of special teams since he arrived. The unit had its best game of the season.
Ricardo Chavez went 4-for-4 on field goals, the unit notched a blocked punt and Jermaine Jackson returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown.
“Today, special teams had a huge impact,” Eck said. “That was a great return by (Jackson) and (Chavez) has been outstanding.”
Jackson had his best outing to date, leading the Vandals with 92 receiving yards and catching his first touchdown of the season.
McCoy found Jackson for a 22-yard score to put the Vandals up 7-0 in the early stages.
“It was time to show everybody what we could do,” Jackson said. “We wanted to just go out there and have fun out there.”
He almost added another score in the fourth quarter after a 64-yard shovel pass from freshman quarterback Jack Layne.
Pounding the ball
Idaho had 177 yards rushing, and freshman Anthony Woods had his best outing of the season, rushing 11 times for 82 yards.
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“He was good today, man,” Eck said, chuckling. “When you look at playing time, I feel like players make decisions on playing time. We just watch the tape and evaluate what we see and if you keep making plays, your role is going to expand.”
Almost all of Idaho’s backs got in on the action, with Roshaun Johnson, Elisha Cummings, Zach Borisch and Trent Elstad all receiving carries.
The run game was complemented by excellent play from the line. Idaho’s hogs reached the second level successfully, allowing Woods and Co. to break off chunk runs to extend drives.
“When everyone does their job, we’ve had pretty good success,” Eck said. “It’s a battle between ourselves not to be perfect but to play as best as we can.”
No controversy at QB
Layne took some snaps at quarterback during the second quarter as the Vandals were down, but also finished the game under center.
He finished 6 for 8 passing with 113 yards. But Eck assured the fan base McCoy still is QB1.
“We planned all week to start using guys that we plan to redshirt and use that four-game rule to develop them,” Eck said. “We had five freshman play in the first half that we had designated for this game. You want to use those games to help develop those guys. We have no quarterback controversy. (Gevani) is our starter.”
Defense continues to make plays
Once again, the defense forced turnovers.
Paul Moala notched an interception in the second quarter off a tipped pass, and Murvin Kenion III picked one off in the fourth to bring Idaho’s season total to seven. The Vandals have a plus-5 turnover margin.
The new era
The new “reimagined” entrance at the Dome lived up to expectations, as well as the hype video.
As the team prepared to run onto the field, Eck was front and center. Once the team charged out, he had to break his stride a bit, clearly in an attempt not to embarrass his players.
After the game, Eck was emotional. It’s clear his infectious attitude has rubbed off on the team. The beautiful thing was seeing how much his team has rubbed off on him.
Pixley may be contacted at (208) 848-2290, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TreebTalks.