LINK: PHOTO GALLERY: Idaho at UNLV
Vandal running back Jayson Bird sustained a shoulder injury (broken collarbone) on the first play of the game and never returned to the field. Jayson will be out a minimum of 6 weeks, and may redshirt the rest of the season (Bird played as a true freshman last fall).
Sophomore Siua Musika, Idaho's starting nose guard, sustained a lower leg injury mid-way through the fourth quarter and did not return (Siua was helped off the field). He went into the training room and came back to the sideline shortly afterward under his own power. His status for the Washington game is not known.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON UNLV GAME: Idaho was on the wrong-end of a couple questionable penalties late in the fourth quarter, including two key penalties which ultimately gave UNLV great field position deep in Vandal territory on their last touchdown drive of the game. As frustrating and questionable as the calls were, Idaho had two chances to take the lead late in this game and came up short. First, Idaho couldn't make the grab in the corner of the endzone with a well-thrown pass on a well-run route. The miss forced Idaho to settle for a field goal and a tie score at 24-24. Later in the game on what would be Idaho's last drive, the Vandals had 1st and goal from the UNLV five but were forced to settle for a field goal attempt, and again came up empty when the 31-yard attempt sailed left. Idaho had other opportunities in the game as well, including a missed fake field goal and a missed field goal attempt. But every play in a game THIS tight counts, regardless of how well Idaho moved the ball and how many times the Vandal defense stood their ground. Props to the Vandal football team for an outstanding effort that put them in a position to win this game late, and for carrying a fourth quarter lead. As long as Idaho continues to improve from week-to-week and play at this level, these opportunities will be there in the future. We'll side with Idaho being able to convert these opportunities in the weeks ahead.
CREATIVE GAME PLANNERS: Lost in the excitement of Idaho's developing offense is the preparation and planning by the Idaho coaching staff. Co-Offensive Coordinators Nate Kaczor and Joel Thomas are ultimately responsible for the play calling during the game and the planning before it is played, but the team has been well-prepared each of the past two weeks, especially considering the inexperience going in to the season (two rFr on the line, rFr at TE, JC transfers and grayshirt freshmen at WR, and JC transfer at QB). The play calling has been creative, and each week Idaho appears to be digging deeper and deeper into its playbook.
DANIEL SMITH DAZZLING: Coming off an impressive Idaho debut last week against Washington State (10 catches for 103 yards and a TD), Daniel Smith was even more impressive this week at UNLV. The junior caught virtually everything thrown his way, and a couple balls that required some serious skills to nab, finishing the game with 141 yards on 6 receptions, including a 51-yard touchdown in the second quarter that gave Idaho a 14-10 lead. His solid early performance ranks him in the Top 10 nationally (by our calculations, #6 in 1-A through last weekend) and makes him a critical part of Idaho's success this fall.
DANIEL WHO? In the near future we will be referring to Daniel Smith as D.J. Smith instead. We got the word this weekend at UNLV that this is the junior's name of choice, and we will convert our records soon. For the record, we now believe Idaho has the most D.J.s (2), Davis's (4), and Smith's (3) of any team in America.
WENDELL OCTAVE HAS BREAKOUT GAME: The only thing that would have made Wendell Octaves's game at UNLV "perfect" would have been if he could have made the TD catch late in the fourth quarter with Idaho deep in UNLV territory and the game tied 31-31. That single play aside (along with the personal foul earlier in the drive), Wendell played a solid game. Among his accomplishments were 144 yards receiving (almost half of his 2004 total and a career single-game best), a TD, and a long of 44 yards (eclipsing his previous long of 34 yards). He caught passes over the middle, and made one fantastic catch while virtually horizontal and fully stretched out in double coverage. He made nice progress after the catch and did one of the best jobs we've ever seen him do getting open. In a nutshell, the redshirt junior played up for this game, something Idaho will need moving forward this fall.
ANTWAUN SHERMAN SHOWS EXPLOSIVE SPEED: Down 10-0 to UNLV in the second quarter, Idaho's offense was moving but wasn't scoring. Former walkon Antwaun Sherman, a senior and scholarship player, took matters into his own hands on a 60-yard burst over left tackle Nate VanderPol, outrunning the Rebel defensive backfield and putting his track speed on full display. It also was the longest play from scrimmage for Idaho since Jayson Bird reeled off a 71-yarder against Boise State in the season opener.
PUNT? WHY PUNT: Here's a little stat that shows just how effective Idaho's offense was Saturday. Idaho did not attempt a single punt in the second half of the game, scoring or being in position to score on every possession after intermission. For the game Idaho punted just 2 times. Grayshirt freshman punter T.J. Conley was effective (albeit a bit fortuitous as he got a generous bounce on his first boot), averaging 42.5 yards per kick without either punt being returned.
GETTING A HANDLE ON THINGS: Wind gusts throughout the game ranged 10-20 MPH, blowing the length of the field with a nasty swirl in the enclosed end of the field. The wind contributed to making the punting game a nightmare at times for Idaho and true freshman Wes Williams. When Wes was able to keep a bead on the ball, he was effective hauling it in and making nice progress. But when the wind kicked-in the ball took on a knuckle ball appearance, making catching the ball a precarious task. Idaho punt returner, true freshman Wesley Williams, had 2 fumbles, one that was recovered by UNLV. On the flip-side, twice Wes made the grab, one time returning it 21 yards into UNLV territory to set up an Idaho touchdown. Incidentally, UNLV didn't even try to recover either of the two punts Idaho had in the game, letting the ball bounce on the turf both times. Maybe it was a little hometown knowledge of what the wind can do with the ball, and instructions to just let it go if it sails.
YOUNGSTERS STEPPING UP ON OFFENSIVE LINE: For the second week in a row, Idaho started two redshirt freshmen on the offensive line (Adam Korby at center and Kristopher Anderson at right guard). In addition, true sophomore Desmond Clark started at right tackle against the Rebels, while fellow true sophomore Marcis Fennell saw serious playing time as the #1 backup at both guard positions, and saw significant playing time in the fourth when Idaho scored two key touchdowns. At one point in the fourth quarter, Idaho had four linemen in the game who came to Idaho last year as true freshmen (Anderson at LG, Korby at C, Fennell at RG, and Clark at RT). The only linemen that did not rotate out of the game were redshirt freshman center Adam Korby and left tackle Nate VanderPol. All this experience will be key as Idaho takes on Washington this week and the extent of right tackle Hank Therien's injury becomes more clear.
SOLID DEFENSIVE LINE ROTATION: Idaho is playing a ton of linemen at defensive tackle and defensive end this year, and the benefits are beginning to yield fresher legs as the game wears on. This week Musika and Edwards started at tackle with Mike Bonelli and Ben Alexander starting at defensive end. Ryan Davis, Eric Davis, Andrew Stobart, and redshirt freshman Alex Toailoa all rotated in liberally at tackle (Ryan Davis appeared to get the most backup reps). At defensive end true freshman Josh Shaw and Charles Campbell saw serious playing time, as Campbell finished the game with 8 tackles (tied for #2 on the team). Incidentally, the top five tacklers on the team are all part of the Vandal front seven. In order, they are Snyder (28), Bousman (15), Charles Campbell (12), Ben Alexander (10), and Mike Anderson (9).
JASON BROWN SIGHTING: Remember true freshman athlete Jason Brown out of high school powerhouse Long Beach Poly? It's possible we may be seeing more of the stud athlete this fall, and it may be on offense, not defense. During fall drills Jason appeared to be settling in at safety and was listed as Idaho's #1 backup at both safety positions for the season opener at Washington State. Saturday night, however, Brown lined up at least once in the Vandal OFFENSIVE backfield and even got a carry as he plunged into the line for a one yard loss. He's been working on special teams this season, and against WSU recorded 2 tackles in the game. With sophomore runningback Jayson Bird out likely for the rest of the season, you may see more of Brown in the Vandal backfield in the near future.