It was an eye-opening performance from first-year starting quarterback Dominique Blackman, but the same couldn’t be said about Idaho’s overall performance as the Vandals fell to 0-2 on the season after losing Saturday to Bowling Green 21-13 in Ohio.
Blackman, who made his first Division 1 start, had a breakout game under center that Vandal fans will remember for years to come. The junior operated with ease from the pocket, completing 30 of 37 passes for 352 yards.
As a whole, it was the same old story for the Idaho offense. The rushing attack showed little promise and a 16-yard touchdown pass from Blackman to Marquan Major stands as the Vandals’ only TD this season.
In addition, the Vandals lost the rubber match of the Idaho-Bowling Green series. Idaho triumphed in the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl, lost in last year’s home-opener and dropped what proved to be the deciding game of the mini-rivalry between the Vandals and Falcons.
“I thought our football team united better, I thought that we responded to adversity better, we still need to win the damn game that we’ve got an opportunity to win,” coach Robb Akey said.
The Idaho defense, which has allowed just 41 points in two games, held the Falcons to seven in the first half. Blackman and the offense had little trouble reaching the red zone but lacked finesse once they got there.
Trey Farquhar was able to convert from 20 and 22 yards out and the hosts’ slim lead stood at one point at the half.
“Going into the half at a one-point deficit, it’s an even ball game,” Akey said. “I felt that gave us some life.”
With the first possession of the second half, Blackman completed six passes and drove the offense 55 yards to the Falcon 19-yard line. Idaho committed two penalties on the drive and Blackman’s 3rd and 11 pass intended for Justin Veltung fell incomplete. Farquhar attempted and missed the ensuing 36-yard field goal.
Bowling Green capitalized on its next possession despite the Vandals’ sack of quarterback Matt Schilz on the first play. Even with a four-yard false start penalty on the very next play, Schilz completed back-to-back passes for 11 and 37 yards.
Bowling Green’s junior quarterback went to the air three more times during the drive, marching the Falcons into Idaho territory. Running back Anthon Samuel took care of the rest, finding a gap and going untouched en route to a 27-yard touchdown run.
Following a Blackman interception, which was featured on ESPN’s Top 10 plays, Schilz completed three consecutive passes, the third a 15-yard touchdown pass to Michigan transfer Je’Ron Stokes.
“That was a rough five and a half minute swing right there but our team continued to battle, we responded to that adversity, that was a step forward,” Akey said.
Despite having the best game by an Idaho quarterback since the Nathan Enderle era, Blackman blamed much of his team’s offensive mishaps on himself.
“Anything that happened is my fault, I shoulder everything,” he said.
Blackman redeemed himself when he and Major hooked up midway through the fourth quarter and the Vandal defense forced Bowling Green to punt on its next possession.
But Idaho receiver Jahrie Level fumbled on Idaho’s last offensive play, allowing the Falcons to run out the clock.
Level, a junior college transfer, was impressive in his second Division 1 start, leading all players in both receptions and receiving yards. The Miami native reeled in 10 for 119 yards.
Idaho concluded the 2011 season with a WAC-low 12 rushing touchdowns and based on its first two outings, there haven’t been any signs of improvement. Ryan Bass and James Baker combined for just 23 net rushing yards Saturday and the Vandals’ long rush of the season still stands at seven yards.
Idaho has every reason to fear its next opponent as the Vandals make a cross-country trip to Baton Rouge, La., to face national runner-up Louisiana State. The Tigers, who won the SEC title last season, are 2-0 thus far and have posted 41 points in each of their first two games.
“If we don’t win the football game then we made everybody happy because they told us we couldn’t,” Akey said. “If we can make things happen and we get that opportunity then we can be the favorite football team in America with the exception of the state of Louisiana.”
Theo Lawson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org