Ground it out
Unlike the first two scrimmages of fall camp, it was the running game that took over the spotlight Thursday afternoon at the Kibbie Dome for the third pre-season scrimmage.
Senior Ryan Bass, who has sat out most of the fall sorting out his academic situation, made his presence felt in the running game with shifty change of direction and big plays, setting up the offense with multiple scoring opportunities.
Bass finished with 68 yards on 11 carries with two touchdowns.
“I think we made some big plays in the running game, and I’d like to see some of that continue to grow for us,” head coach Robb Akey said. “I might have mentioned ‘hey, make sure we don’t forget about the running game.’ It was a conscious part of what we wanted to get accomplished today.”
During the second scrimmage, in which Bass sat out, four different Idaho backs rushed for just 33 combined yards.
“Running backs probably had the best day out of the offense today. “The O line did a great job of blocking, they did all of their assignments right,” Bass said. “I think so far I’ve had a pretty good camp. I had to get some school stuff worked out first, I had a good week all week in practice and had a good day today so I’m ready to get going this season.”
Idaho will kick off the season Aug. 30 against Eastern Washington in the Dome, with the offensive depth chart mostly set. Bass’ performance probably establishes his place, with James Baker set to alternate carries with him, especially at the goal line.
Dominique Blackman, who was named starting quarterback this week, was pleased with the performance of the running game.
“It feels great… it can open up so many different opportunities,” Blackman said.
“First two scrimmages what did we do? Five wide, let’s chuck it around let’s have fun. This scrimmage we went back to the chalkboard since it’s getting closer and closer to Eastern Washington, so we want to be able to come out and establish the run.”
Blackman was 9-14 passing on the day for 72 yards and two touchdowns. This scrimmage was the first time he had the opportunity to work exclusively with the first team.
“This is my first opportunity actually getting to lead a team, and we’re all just trying to grow together,” he said.
There were a few scary injury situations near the end of the scrimmage when offensive linemen Ben Westrum had to be carted off the field after what Akey called an apparent ankle injury. Wide receiver Ian Silbernagel took a hard hit on a high thrown ball but was able to walk off the field with help.
Offensively, receiver Mike Scott had another impressive day, catching five balls for 44 yards. Running back Todd Handley had 68 yards on seven carries.
Defensively the Vandals were up and down, ending the day with five sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles and four pass breakups. They also gave up five rushing touchdowns.
“There were a lot of things that were done cleanly today, really, other than one stupid penalty, it wasn’t too bad in that respect today,” Akey said. “There’s a lot of positives. We’ve still got a lot of ground to do with this football team but we’re close.”
Sean Kramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org