Archive | October, 2009

A comeback for the ages

31 Oct
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Bruce Mann/Univ. of Idaho

With little more than seven minutes remaining in Idaho’s Homecoming showdown with Louisiana Tech, grim faces ringed the Kibbie Dome field, and some in the packed crowd were filing out. Trailing by 13 points and with an offense that had sputtered all day long, the home team’s chances didn’t look good.

But then, the Vandals were never given a chance to begin with.

As if thumbing their collective noses at the naysayers, Idaho’s offense rallied and its defense stiffened. Quarterback Nathan Enderle connected in the clutch and DeMaundray Woolridge bulldogged twice into the end zone. The Vandals had the lead. Could they keep it?

The answer came when Louisiana Tech’s desperation 56-yard field goal try bounced harmlessly off the turf. Yes, yes they could — and the Dome exploded. Players, students, alumni, band members, anyone and everyone charged the field.

If the goalposts hadn’t been bolted to the wall, they probably would have come down too.

The Vandals beat the Bulldogs, 35-34, and wrote another unlikely chapter into the improbable story of Idaho’s 2009 season.

“It was awesome,” Enderle said after the game. “To get that win for our Homecoming crowd, our seventh win, I think it showed our courage.”

Idaho, which improved to 7-2 overall, 4-1 in Western Athletic Conference play, has now all but sealed its first postseason bid since 1998. The team remains undefeated in the Kibbie Dome, and will face Fresno State at home next Saturday in a nationally-televised night game. Louisiana Tech falls to 3-5, 2-3 in the WAC, and is all but eliminated from bowl contention.

“What matters is that we came out with the win,” Idaho coach Robb Akey said. “What this football team has done seven times now this season, is do whatever it takes to win. They’ve been down, they’ve been up, but they’ve found a way to win.”

After last week’s drubbing by Nevada, questions had been raised about how “real” the Vandals’ comeback season was. Feasting off a bewildered defense, the Wolf Pack’s Pistol and option attack hung 70 points on Idaho. The critics came out in force, tearing apart what has been the Vandals’ best performance ever as a Football Bowl Subdivision team. Idaho’s weaknesses had been exposed, they said, and they might not win a game the rest of the season.

Early in today’s game, Idaho looked dead set on proving them correct.

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Vandal Football Gameday: Louisiana Tech

31 Oct

It’s Gameday in Moscow for Idaho’s Homecoming! The 6-2 Idaho Vandals will look to use some home cooking to get back on the winning track against a 3-4 Louisiana Tech squad that has yet to win a road game. A victory this afternoon would seal a bowl berth for the Vandals — their first since 1998.

We’ll bring you all the action from the Kibbie Dome with our exclusive play-by-play liveblog, Vandal Nation Live, starting at 1:15 p.m. with the pregame show. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Click here for Vandal Nation Live.

Today in the WAC

There are five games to be played involving WAC squads today, and here’s the lowdown on all of them. You’ll note that four of the five are likely to be ugh-ly. All times Pacific:

  • New Mexico State (3-5, 1-3 WAC) at Ohio State (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten), 9 a.m.
  • Poor, poor Aggies. They were having a half-decent season going, but have hit a two-game slide in conference play. Now DeWayne Walker’s squad has to travel to the Horseshoe in Columbus for a body-bag game against Ohio State that will almost certainly leave New Mexico State crushed into the ground. Why they scheduled this game in the middle of the conference season is beyond fathoming. (Well, OK, they probably needed the money, but did it have to be the Buckeyes?)

    The Aggies have shown a reasonably decent defensive posture, but they’re entirely unable to score points. There are 120 teams in the FBS — NMSU “boasts” the 120th-ranked offense and the 119th-ranked scoring offense, averaging fewer than 14 points per game. No question here, Buckeyes in a blowout. How many Aggie players will limp home wounded? Now that’s a good question.

  • San Jose State (1-5, 0-2 WAC) at No. 6 Boise State (7-0, 2-0 WAC), noon
  • After getting a 54-9 win over Hawaii and still slipping a place in the polls last week, expect the Broncos to come out swinging on their home turf. Meanwhile, the floundering Spartans are looking for any note of salvation in what has been a disastrous season… but they’re unlikely to find it on the Smurf Turf of Bronco Stadium. Boise State has not lost a WAC game at home — ever.

    For Boise State to have any hope of making a BCS bowl, they have to win out and do so in convincing fashion. Expect no quarter to be given — and with San Jose State’s awful running defense, Jeremy Avery and the rest of the Bronco tailbacks should have a field day. Is triple digits out of the realm of possibility? Maybe, but Boise State needs to find something that’ll impress the poll voters and the stat computers. With Nevada looming next week, the spectre of a 1-7 record is staring the Spartans in the face.

  • Hawaii (2-5, 0-4 WAC) at Nevada (4-3, 3-0 WAC), 1 p.m.
  • Copy, paste, repeat. The injury-riddled Warriors have to fly across the Pacific for the privilege of being obliterated at home by Nevada. Last week, Hawaii was forced to go to its fourth-string quarterback (!) after third-stringer Bryant Moniz was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Reeling, disorganized and demoralized, the Warriors will be easy pickings for a Wolf Pack team whose powerful offense no WAC foe has yet stopped.

    Nevada’s one weak point is its secondary, and Hawaii can still pass the football — the Warriors’ only hope would appear to be a high-scoring shootout. But outscoring the Wolf Pack is impossible if you can’t contain coach Chris Ault’s Pistol offense. Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua made a mockery of their matchup with Idaho, putting 70 points up on the scoreboard. Even Idaho’s season-high tally of 45 wasn’t enough. Hawaii won’t even get that close.

  • Utah State (2-5, 1-2 WAC) at Fresno State (4-3, 3-1 WAC), 2 p.m.
  • Poor, poor Aggies. (Noticing a theme here?) Utah State got its first win of the season over an FBS opponent with a win at home last week over Louisiana Tech. But the momentum from that victory will come to a crashing halt today in Bulldog Stadium, because Fresno State is ready to run all over the defenseless (literally) Aggies. Utah State’s rushing defense is one of the worst in the nation and the Bulldogs will unleash the nation’s leading rusher, Ryan Mathews, on that hapless front line.

    After a disastrous (record-wise) 1-3 non-conference season, Fresno State is looking to contend in the conference race and seal itself up a bowl bid. Beating up on Utah State would all but assure the WAC’s Central Valley outpost of making it to the postseason. It shouldn’t be a particularly tough task, because the Aggies’ not-bad offensive package has struggled to put points on the board. Fresno State, which is seventh in the nation in scoring offense, has no such worries. The Bulldogs will roll.

  • Louisiana Tech (3-4, 2-2 WAC) at Idaho (6-2, 3-1 WAC), 2 p.m.
  • Now here’s a game that’s likely to be a, well, game. The Vandals, who had a Cinderella five-game win streak snapped in brutal fashion in Reno last week, are hoping to take a measure of revenge on home turf, and in so doing, lock up the program’s first bowl bid since 1998. Louisiana Tech, meanwhile, needs to beat Idaho to have any hope at all of playing in December. The two squads match up reasonably well on paper, right?

    Hold on a minute. Unfortunately for the WAC’s southern Bulldogs, this game is being played in Moscow and they haven’t won a game on the road all year. While it’s true that Louisiana Tech has a solid passing defense that could slow Nathan Enderle’s aerial assault, it’s also true that they can’t stop the run. Nor have the Bulldogs really been effective at moving the ball, via ground or air. They just don’t look able to keep up with the Vandals’ dynamic offense. Idaho’s Homecoming crowd will go nuts as the Vandals secure a winning season — and, likely, a trip to Boise.

Pregame Roundup

  • We’ll have more links in the morning.

Idaho Vandals soccer eliminated from WAC championships

30 Oct

Sunday’s game against Hawaii will be the last game of the season for the Idaho Vandals soccer squad, who have been eliminated from the Western Athletic Conference championship today.

Idaho sat in seventh place after back-to-back losses last weekend, and needed help in a big way to qualify for the WAC championship. Idaho needed Boise State to lose both games this weekend, and Idaho also needed a win against Hawaii in their “senior day” game on Sunday.

All of that is now inconsequential, as Boise State’s 2-1 comeback victory tonight eliminated the Vandals from the WAC championships. Instead of playing for a chance at the WAC championship, the Vandals will have to settle for a chance to finish the season with a winning record. The Vandals are currently 9-8-3.

Hawaii, which was playing at Boise, got on the board first, and after the first half, seemed destined to win with a strong controlling play. Back-to-back goals for the Broncos, one on a penalty kick in the 67th minute and a go-ahead goal in the 76th, spoiled Hawaii’s chances.

Idaho’s game on Sunday will be the last game for seniors Ashley Perez, Anna Sandman, Sari Morrison and Lydia Beyerlein. A short ceremony will occur fifteen minutes before kick-off, which is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Vandal Nation Live: Idaho Silver and Gold Scrimmage

30 Oct

The Idaho Vandals tip off their 2009-10 basketball campaign tonight in fine fashion.

Mac Hopson, Marvin Jefferson, Kashif Watson, Brandon Wiley and big-hair Luciano de Souza return to action, and are joined by perhaps the strongest Vandal recruiting class in a decade — Steffan Johnson, Luiz Toledo, Kyle Barone, Corey Stern, Landon Tatum, Jeff Ledbetter, Joe Kammerer and more.  Tonight they take to the historic hardwood of Memorial Gym for a 20-minute shootout scrimmage, showing off coach Don Verlin’s brand of Vandal basketball.

We’ll be courtside to bring you all the action, with pregame at 5:45 p.m., tipoff at 6.

Click here to join!

Good Morning Vandal Nation: Oct. 30, 2009

30 Oct

It’s Vandal Spirit Friday on Homecoming weekend — so get out there with your Idaho gear.

Vandal volleyball moved into a tie for second in the WAC yesterday with a gritty four-set victory over New Mexico State.

We’ll have courtside coverage from tonight’s Silver and Gold Scrimmage, starting at 5:45 p.m. — click here to join.

This afternoon, we’ll also finish up our WAC hoops preview countdown and give you the lowdown on all five WAC battles on the card for tomorrow. We couldn’t get anyone from Louisiana Tech to do a Better Know a Foe feature, so that’ll take a week off.

A reminder: students must pick up their hard tickets from the Kibbie Dome for tomorrow’s game against Louisiana Tech. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. — our liveblog will begin at 1:15 with pregame coverage.

Football

Basketball.

  • Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal continues his detailed WAC preview series with No. 8 San Jose State.

Soccer

WAC preview: #2 Utah State a fearsome threat, as always

29 Oct

We continue our WAC men’s basketball preview with a look at #2 Utah State.

Team: #2 Utah State

Coach: Stew Morrill, 12th season, 267-91

Last year’s record: 30-5 (14-2 WAC, 1st)

Returning starters: Four (G Tyler Newbold, G Jared Quayle, F Tai Wesley, F Pooh Williams)

Key losses: F Gary Wilkinson, G Stavon Williams

Key newcomers: F Nate Bendall

Why they’re here: They’re the Utah State Aggies. Stew Morrill is their fiery coach. The Spectrum is their home court. The Refraction is their irreverent voice. No matter who they lose, Utah State always finds a way to win a ridiculous number of games and contend for the conference crown. Betting against them is a sucker’s game and we’re seldom, if ever, willing to play it.

That said, if there’s a year that the WAC’s undisputed juggernaut might — just might — be vanquished, this is it. Star forward and conference Player of the Year Gary Wilkinson has been lost to graduation and there’s no clear replacement for his production. He not only leaves a gaping hole in the Aggies’ frontcourt, his absence means opposing defenses won’t have to spend the whole game keying off him. Juco standout Nate Bendall will be stepping into Wilkinson’s role, but his are mighty big shoes to fill. Bendall will have to prove on the court that he’s a worthy successor.

The rest of the Aggie starting lineup, though, is made up of unquestionable talent. Jared Quayle is one of the conference’s best point guards, Tyler Newbold is Mr. Clutch and Tai Wesley is a consistent paint performer. Bench help will come from a more experienced Jaxon Myaer, who, after Stavon Williams’ departure, is the Aggies’ leading returning reserve. The bottom line for Logan’s Heroes — a track record of success that can’t be ignored. The coaching is too good, the players too talented, the Spectrum too intimidating.

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Good Morning Vandal Nation: Oct. 29, 2009

29 Oct

It’s just about threatening to snow on the Palouse — and right on time, because hoops season is about to begin. In keeping with that, our hoops links section is starting to expand.

Today, we’ll have live-tweet coverage from the Vandals’ volleyball match against New Mexico State at 7 p.m., as the Idaho spikers look to solidify a top-half seeding in the WAC Volleyball Tournament.

A reminder: Students must pick up hard tickets for Saturday’s Homecoming game, which kicks off at 2 p.m. We’ll have complete previews coming up.

Football

Basketball.

  • Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal starts a detailed WAC preview series with No.9 Hawaii.
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