Idaho's offense remained stagnant for the second week in a row while senior defensive tackle Jeff Edwards and the rest of the Vandal defense continues to play tough under heavy pressure. In Idaho's Western Athletic Conference home opener, played in front of 15,635 fans and a national ESPN-U audience, Idaho (0-4, 0-1 WAC) was shutout in The Dome for the first time since 1986, falling to Hawaii (1-2, 1-0 WAC) by a final score of 24-0.
As we mentioned in the pre-game writeup before this game, Idaho’s meeting with the University of Hawaii would be a game of firsts. Unfortunately, in Idaho’s 24-0 loss last night, the firsts weren’t the kind Idaho had anticipated:
- It was Hawaii’s first road win in two years.
- It was Idaho’s first home shutout loss since 1986.
- It was Hawaii’s first win of the season.
It’s remarkable how quickly the college game can turn. Two weeks ago Seattle area newspapers were spreading the word that the Vandals could beat Washington, with Idaho coming off impressive showings against Washington State and UNLV.
Two weeks later, in front of a national ESPN-U audience and a boisterous Idaho crowd itching to cheer the home team to victory, Idaho's offense remained in idle as they got no closer than the Warrior's 38-yard line in the game.
With injuries mounting across the entire offensive depth chart and a significant number of freshmen and first year JC transfers now playing key roles, the same Idaho offense that had been so effective early in the season is now struggling with consistency in every facet of the game.
Going into this matchup with Hawaii, with the nation’s #13 receiver in D.J. Smith and the WAC’s Offensive Player of the Week in Steve Wichman, Idaho was expected to pose a challenge offensively to the rebuilding Warrior defense. Surprisingly, for the second game in a row, the Vandal offense went without scoring a touchdown, and this week was held to just 10 first downs in the game.
In a nutshell, Idaho was unable to get the ground game moving or pose a threat rushing, and often (particularly in the first half) Wichman and the receivers did not seem to be on the same page.
Yes, the loss of running back Jayson Bird, with his hard running style and breakaway speed that forced defenses to respect the run, is looming as a bigger impact than previously anticipated.
Yes, the Vandals are playing an offensive line that is without its two starters on the left side and a key backup, and is currently breaking in a true freshman alongside two redshirt freshmen, two sophomores, and a junior.
Yes, the Vandals have been without tighend Luke Smith-Anderson (6-5, 270) for the entire season, a junior who throughout spring and fall drills was figuring to be a key component in the Vandal offensive attack.
And yes, Idaho lost star receiver D.J. Smith for the second half of the Hawaii game and may be without the talented junior for awhile.
Fortunately the team and staff are not using these player losses as "excuses" for the team's performance. They acknowledge that there were enough missed opportunities (dropped passes and missed interceptions) and blown assignments to overshadow many of the mistakes of youth.
But as the player personnel losses continue to mount, the team will continue to re-evaluate what they are doing to find the pieces that will get them back to form.
For Vandal fans, this will hopefully come sooner rather than later.
Defensively, we tip our hats to the entire unit. They spent virtually the entire second half (and 38 minutes of the game) on the field and yielded 24 points to a Warrior team that probably would have scored twice as many points on Idaho a year ago.
Going into this game, had anyone been told Idaho would hold UH to 24 points, most would say Idaho would be in this game. It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t always pretty, but the Vandal defense did their job last night.
Leading the charge again was middle linebacker Cole Snyder with 13 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and a pass breakup. Matching Cole's tackle total was redshirt sophomore Josh Bousman, Idaho's starting outside linebacker (SAM) who had 13 tackles including 4 tackles for loss and a sack. Senior defensive tackle Jeff Edwards battled well up front (6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack and 1 QB hurry), while true sophomore defensive end Ben Alexander recorded a sack and QB hurry with 2 solo tackles. True sophomore strong safety D.J. Dykes had 7 tackles on the night and broke up a key Hawaii pass which had he held onto it could have resulted in a big return.
Idaho only kicked off once in the game and never attempted a field goal. But punter T.J. Conley saw plenty of action and for the most part was solid, averaging 42.7 yards per punt with a long of 65 yards and pinned the Warriors deep in their end of the field three times.
Up next Idaho hosts Utah State next Saturday for Homecoming. USU has had their struggles in recent years, but will enter this game 1-1 on the season and fresh off a 31-24 home victory over UNLV.