Idaho rolls into San Marcos with momentum
It took them six games to put all three phases of the game together for a 60-minute period. When they did, victory graced the Idaho Vandal football team for the first time this season.
The end result was anything but convincing. New Mexico State proved to be the subpar opponent most expected them to be, but most importantly, the Vandals stroll into an upcoming test at Texas State with a perfect 1-0 WAC record.
Preceding another cross-country trip to No. 23 Louisiana Tech two weeks from now, the San Marcos excursion may be a nice medium for an upbeat Vandal team that has seen close to the best and worse the FBS has to offer.
The 2-3 Bobcats looked like they may be a force to be reckoned with early in the season, especially after a 30-13 drubbing of Houston in their season-opener.
Since then, Texas State has collected just one other win, a 41-37 defeat of FCS Stephen F. Austin in week three.
Coming off a loss to up-and-coming New Mexico, the Bobcats host Idaho for their first-ever WAC game.
The Vandals did what they needed to against the Aggies, but offensive coordinator Jason Gesser seeks consistency and execution from the offense.
“We know as an offense that we should’ve performed better. There were a lot of balls that were an inch away from the hand,” Gesser said. “We make those catches, then we do put those points up, we do execute better.”
The last few weeks, Gesser and starting quarterback Dominique Blackman have worked on expanding the pass game, which is typically set up for short slants and hitches.
Last week, the Aggies keyed in to the short but efficient pass game Blackman has conducted thus far. With a struggling run game, the offense was forced to exploit the deep ball, something that paid off with Najee Lovett’s 35-yard touchdown reception for Idaho’s first touchdown.
“A lot of defenses have been playing pretty soft on us, not pressing us. New Mexico State was different,” Gesser said. “Our offense is always developing and always pushing to have somebody going deep, to have that deep threat.”
If Texas State has spent sufficient time studying the Vandal offense, they too will recognize the emphasis Idaho has placed on the quick pass game.
If the visitors are forced to turn to the deep ball once again, the protection of Blackman should also be emphasized. Despite its youth and inexperience, the Vandal offensive line has made strides this season, beginning four weeks ago in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
With only two returning starters, the o-line blanked one of the nation’s elite defenses, allowing the Tigers no sacks on Blackman. The fat five was able to repeat that feat a week ago against NMSU.
“We really wanted to buckle down our protections, get back to the basics,” left guard A.J. Jones said. “We feel real prideful when we don’t allow a sack, we don’t even like allowing hits on the quarterback.”
Along with Blackman and the line, the receiving corps will also have to adjust to the altered offensive schemes.
Junior college transfer receiver Jahrie Level said the short game fits his style of play better, but he and the other receivers have had time to adjust.
“You’ve got to transform from this to that, watch film,” Level said. “Execution with the quarterback, he’s got to know if they pressure me let’s go. And if he bails out, we’re going to lock onto that route.”
With a 4 p.m. PT kickoff, the Vandals have a chance to remain atop the WAC standings with a win against a mediocre Bobcat squad.
Theo Lawson can be reached at email@example.com