Idaho imperfectly perfect
A win is a win — that in itself is a passing grade. Unfortunately, this was an ugly win. New Mexico State is a bad team, probably worse than Idaho. The Aggies did everything they could to hand the Vandals a blowout and the Vandals responded by doing everything they could to keep the Aggies in it. Idaho lacked a killer instinct, and because of it, the game came down to the final two minutes when it shouldn’t have.
It took the Idaho offense the entire first quarter before it hit its stride, but when Blackman connected with Najee Lovett on a 35-yard touchdown pass, it was the Idaho attack we’ve all become accustomed to, for the most part. Third down was still an issue, as was stringing together consistency.
Offensive coordinator Jason Gesser dialed up more deep passes for Blackman than we’ve seen. Blackman said during the post-game press conference it was because the North Carolina game was a reality check of what defenses can do when keying in on Idaho’s short passing game.
Blackman struggled with putting touch on the ball early, as was the case when he threw an interception on the first play of the game, failing to get the ball past the in between defender and to his intended receiver who was sitting wide open behind the coverage.
The offensive line gets an in between, because the “fat five” was stellar in pass protection, but failed to open up consistent running lanes for James Baker and Ryan Bass. Bass is a perpetual dancer, but had to continually dance before he even hit the line of scrimmage. Most of his yards were tough yards fighting through contact for short, two- or three-yard gains.
Idaho wide receiver play showed a new dimension this week — physicality. Jahrie Level became more than a deep threat, fighting off the New Mexico State defender on his touchdown reception and fighting through tackles for his yards after catch.
The term “swarm to the football” is a cliché for a reason. It’s how effective tackling defenses operate, and it’s what Idaho’s defense did to New Mexico State ball carriers on Saturday afternoon at the Kibbie Dome. The Vandals’ starting trio of linebackers were everywhere on defense, in both the pass and the run game, creating havoc for New Mexico State quarterback Andrew Manley. Tuala had two tipped passes, one of which led to an interception for Tracy Carter. Siavii was sideline to sideline making tackles, and Mauga had a tip drill interception. New Mexico State found running lanes on and off, and for the most part the defensive line, led by QuayShawne Buckley and Jesse Davis, prevented the Aggies from getting any kind of consistency.
The secondary did an incredible job of keeping the play in front of them and preventing the deep ball. New Mexico State didn’t let Manley take too many shots down the field, but when he did the Idaho secondary was ready for it. Defensive coordinator Mark Criner made sure the Aggies would have to take what was given to them and work methodically down the field, something they did not really do until the final possession of the game, when Idaho was up 16.
Trey Farquhar is money. Straight, cash, money. As in, he is well on his way toward making at least six figures as an NFL kicker if he keeps this up. Farquhar was 4-4, including nailing two from more than 50 yards. A 55-yarder to end the first half tied his career long, when he ended the first half at San Jose State last season.
Bobby Cowan had another shanked punt this week, but came back and had a normal Cowan day with 41.2 yards-per-punt average and pinned one inside the 20. Cowan is significantly better this season at pinning balls.
Sean Kramer can be reached at email@example.com