Opportunity Lost

First year Idaho head football coach <b>Nick Holt</b> saw a solid defensive effort squandered as the Vandal offense sputtered in a 16-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe in the Kibbie Dome. Idaho sustained the loss of starting tackle Hank Therien for the game (injured during the week), and limited action out of guard Jade Tadvick, turning to 2 true freshmen on the offensive line to fill the void.<br> <br> Coach Holt held himself and his staff primarily responsible for the breakdowns in this game.

Head football coach Nick Holt's postgame comments in the Vandal media center pretty much summed up how this game was played:

"Drives fizzled out [after a good play] because probably the next play after that we'd have a 10 yard holding penalty, or 15 yard penalty, or go offsides and get into 1st and 15. We'd go backwards after a nice play. It was just really bad, bad football. Alot of it was just foolish stuff that we need to coach better. We've got to do a better job. I've got to do a better job of getting this corrected. It will be hard for us to win another game if we have 13 penalties."
Defensively, the Vandals were dealt a harsh blow this week as junior defensive tackle Jeff Edwards was unable to suit up for Idaho. He sustained an injury in the Eastern Michigan game last week, and could be out a couple more weeks. Senior DT Michael Togafau, who continues to nurse an injury, also did not appear in this game. An already thin defensive line depth chart was dealt a harsh blow.

Consequently, junior defensive end Mike Bonelli shifted inside to DT, starting next to true freshman noseguard Siua Musika on the Vandal interior defensive line, with senior James Coley rotating in throughout the game. Undersized and undermanned, the unit put up a valiant effort in holding the Indians (1-4, 1-1 SBC) to 16 points for the game, 117 net yards rushing, and 139 yards passing.

LARRY JOHNSON / VandalVenue.com
WILL Robert Davis and a teammate tackle a ULM ball carrier, with FS #22 Simeon Stewart moving in.
Standouts for this game included junior middle linebacker Cole Snyder who led the Vandals with 11 tackles (6 solo), 3 tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery. Sophomore WILL Robert Davis had 10 tackles on the afternoon, 2 tackles for loss and a QB hurry. True freshman strong safety D.J. Dykes recorded 7 tackles (5 solo) and 1 tackle for loss.

Junior defensive lineman Eric Davis, seeing playing time at DT and also time on special teams, blocked ULM's first PAT attempt in the second quarter, which resulted in a 6-0 Indian lead.

True freshman cornerback Reggie Jones was out for this game with an injury. Senior Herb Cash worked the right cornerback position extensively and recorded a pass breakup on the afternoon.

Despite the personnel losses, and the extensive play of several true freshmen, the unit performed admirably.

LARRY JOHNSON / VandalVenue.com
True-Fr RB #32 Rolly Lumbala battles for yards.
Offensively, the team struggled. How big a factor it was to play without Hank Therien is uncertain (he could be back in the lineup next week, and is day-to-day). And how big a factor it was to have starting guard Jade Tadvick limited with an injury also is unknown (Jade could only participate on about 30% of Idaho's snaps). True freshman Desmond Clark stepped in at right tackle, while true freshman Marcis Fennell started at left guard. Both of these players are the future of the Vandal offensive line, and both have seen extensive playing time this fall (Desmond has started a couple games at RT, while Fennell has been one of Idaho's top backups at center and guard), but the offensive line as a unit gave up 5 sacks on the day, while running lanes were often clogged. Still, Idaho backs ran for over 100 yards as Jayson Bird battled for 86 yards on 19 carries with a long 20, while yardsRolly Lumbala had 16 yards on 4 carries.

Youth, inexperience, and working on chemistry continues to be an issue up front (Idaho's top OL of VanderPol, Kiel, Schulte, Tadvick, and Therien have only played 2 complete games, beginning to end, this year – Oregon and Eastern Michigan). But the team's other struggles offensively transcended the growth the line is enduring.

The Vandals were penalized 13 times for 110 yards. On BOTH of Idaho's touchdowns, Idaho actually scored TWICE each time. In the 3rd quarter, true freshman RB Jayson Bird scored from 7 yards out on a run over freshman tackle Desmond Clark. As the band belted out the fight song and fans were cheering, the refs were marking off a 5 yard penalty for an illegal formation. Two plays later, Harrington connected with TE Willie Sipoloa for the score on a 10 yard pass into the left flat.

Late in the fouth quarter, Harrington connected with sophomore wideout Wendell Octave on a 23 yard pass into the endzone. Again, the TD was called back on an illegal shift, and again Harrington connected on a TD pass to Octave, this time from 28 yards out.

Three illegal formation penalties. A personal foul penalty by one of our WRs. Offsides and holding. Illegal substitution. Everything added up to make the self-inflicted damage insurmountable. Coach Holt held the offense, as a unit, largely accountable for this one, and that includes how the staff prepared the team for this game. And, as he stated, that staff includes himself.

Indications from the post-game interview are that there will be changes in how the team prepares for the rest of their games this year. The team is doing a lot of things right, but they are being hampered by inopportune mistakes that either destroy their own drives, or keep opponents drives rolling. There isn't a lot that can be done right now about the team's youth and inexperience, and the depth issues they have in several key areas (primarily in the trenches). That is the kind of thing that can only be resolved with time, and the team has to play with the cards they've been dealt.

But finding ways to keep shooting themselves in the foot is something that can be addressed now, and indications are that they will be more aggressively addressed in the weeks ahead.

Finally, during the post-game interview, Coach Holt had this to say: "It was a great crowd today, and it was loud. [ULM] had some problems with the noise early in the game, went off-sides alot early in the game. I'm just really disappointed for the fans, because we didn't play better."

It's a fairly safe bet that Coach and crew will get the penalty issue resolved, and probably sooner rather than later.


LARRY JOHNSON / VandalVenue.com
Vandal Marching Band keeps the music pumping during the game.

LARRY JOHNSON / VandalVenue.com
Dad's Weekend crowd, student section.

LARRY JOHNSON / VandalVenue.com
Dad's Weekend crowd, alumni section.

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com
Dad's Weekend crowd, alumni section.

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com
Student section cheers on the Vandal D as they pin ULM deep in their end of the field.

LARRY JOHNSON / VandalVenue.com
University of Idaho cheerleader.

PAT HAUGE / VandalVenue.com
University of Idaho cheerleader.

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