Welcome to Defensive Line Domination 101.
Idaho’s young and depleted offensive line got an education today in just how much havoc a solid defensive line can cause. The statistics are conclusive enough in-and-of-themselves: MINUS four yards rushing for the game, seven quarterback sacks, less than 200 yards of total offense.
But it was more than that today. In one first-half series with the ball at the UW 31-yard line, Idaho failed to gain a single yard TWICE on back-to-back QB sneaks, one of them the fourth down “do-or-die” variety. Later, Idaho had first-and-goal at the UW 5-yard line. Three plays later Idaho was forced to kick a 30-yard field goal after a key sack and a penalty backed them up.
The Dawgs are formidable across the front, headlined by senior defensive tackles Manasi Hopoi (6-4, 290) and Mike Mapuolesega (6-3, 270), junior defensive end Donny Mateaki (6-5, 285), and redshirt freshman DT Wilson Afoa (6-3, 290). It is a rugged bunch, and when Washington wanted to bring some heat, they brought more than Idaho could handle.
As the game wore on, Idaho was forced to run short slanting pass routes as the rushing game struggled. The 5- and 7-step drop-back passes were not going to happen. Not this day.
Some close to program might say that Idaho was undermanned with junior right tackle Hank Therien (6-7, 322) and sophomore backup left tackle Matt O’Donnell (6-4, 288) out this week. Neither suited up for this game.
Others might point to the loss of starting left tackle Nate VanderPol (6-6, 314, Jr) during the third quarter. Others still might say the loss of starting right tackle Desmond Clark (6-3, 300, So), also during the third quarter, was the breaking point. Both were gone for the rest of the game (VanderPol with a knee injury, Clark with migraines).
With VanderPol out early in the third quarter, Idaho was forced to burn true freshman Billy Bates’ redshirt, as Bates played the entire third and fourth quarter at left tackle. When Clark later left the game, right guard Kris Anderson moved to right tackle, and sophomore Marcis Fennell took over Kris’ spot at right guard.
But the reality is that the Husky defensive line was set on giving Idaho all they could handle today, regardless of who Idaho lined up, and the Vandals had no answer.
As a result, Idaho struggled to get anything seriously going through the air or on the ground. There were moments, such as:
- Lee Smith’s first quarter 32-yard reception to the UW 35 yard line
- Desmond Belton’s 20-yard reception to the UW 25 yard line
- Jason Brown’s impressive 21-yard rush to the UW 5 yard line
But this weekend Idaho could not keep the sticks moving in the right direction, and they couldn’t punch it in when they had the chance. All told, Wichman was 19 of 28 for 187 yards, 2 interceptions, no touchdowns, and was sacked seven times (when he wasn’t sacked, he generally was on the move). True freshman runningback Jason Brown gained 39 yards on 10 carries, with a long of 21-yards. Wide out Daniel Smith led Idaho with 70 yards on six receptions with a long of 23-yards.
What did work this week was Mike Barrow’s kicking leg as he was perfect this afternoon on both attempts, connecting from 30 yards and 38 yards on the day. For the year so far he has connected on 5 of 7 attempts, including also going a perfect 2 of 2 at Washington State in the season opener.
Defensively, Idaho played with their backs against the wall all day long. Some of it was self-inflicted, including blunders in the punting game such as giving up a blocked punt and shanking a punt later in the game. Some of it was due to occasional defensive lapses, like giving up a 48-yard run by Husky tailback Louis Rankin, and a 31-yarder to quarterback Isaiah Stanbeck. But most of the time it was due to exceptional Washington field position to start drives.
This is the other, less visible side of defensive line dominance. The disruption the Husky front seven caused resulted in outstanding field position for the Husky offense. How good? Practically every single UW drive in the third quarter STARTED in Idaho territory (UI 43, 26, 27, and the UW 47 to be exact). The first three UW drives resulted in two touchdowns and a field goal. Short playing field equals short trip to the endzone.
In addition, without starting nose guard Siua Musika for this game, Idaho gave up 192 yards net rushing and did not record a single sack in the game (UW QB Stanback finished 9 of 16 with 1 INT and 1 TD). In addition, three pass interference penalties and a late hit on the sideline for the second week in a row helped keep Husky drives alive in the second and third quarter.
Despite these set-backs, Idaho did an admirable job holding their ground. Among the highlights Idaho prevented UW from converting a single third down in the game (0 - 9), Idaho had a couple fine goal line stands (forcing UW to kick fields goals, one of which they missed), and Idaho recovered a fumble and picked off a pass. Cole Snyder again led all tacklers with 14 on the day (seven solo, two tackles for loss), followed by David Vobora grabbing 8 tackles with one tackle for loss, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Safety D.J. Dykes, the quarterback of the Vandal defense, picked a pass, broke up a pass, and recorded seven tackles including two tackles for loss.
But it wasn’t enough this afternoon against a Husky team that was stingy defensively and opportunistic offensively.