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.

ESPNU to broadcast Vandals/Broncos game

28 Oct

The Idaho Vandals have another nationally-televised game this season — and this one is going to be a doozy.

Idaho’s annual in-state grudge match with nationally-ranked, undefeated Boise State will be broadcast live on ESPNU, the network announced.

The game kicks off in Boise on Nov. 14 at 1:30 p.m. Mountain, 12:30 p.m. Pacific.

If the Vandals win at home these next two weeks, Idaho would be 8-2 going into the game. If that happens, the game may well become a battle for the WAC Championship crown. Unreal. After back-to-back seasons of futility, the Vandals are receiving more national exposure than ever before in their history as a Bowl Subdivision team.

Good Morning Vandal Nation: Oct. 28, 2009

28 Oct

Slow day other than the links, so let’s get to them:

Football

Basketball

Volleyball

WAC preview: #3 New Mexico State’s season hinges on academics

27 Oct

We continue our WAC men’s basketball preview with a look at #3 New Mexico State.

Team: New Mexico State

Coach: Marvin Menzies, 3rd season (38-29)

Last year’s record: 17-15 (9-7 WAC, T-3rd)

Returning starters: 5 (G Jahmar Young, G Jonathan Gibson, G Hernst Laroche, F Wendell McKines, C Hamidu Rahman)

Key losses: None

Key newcomers: F Bandja Sy, F/C B.J. West

Why they’re here: Five returning starters, including the WAC’s leading scorer, says New Mexico State’s Aggies will probably finish no worse than they did this year — and will be even better as a team. So too, though, will the rest of the WAC, and this team needs to prove it can play defense before we fully buy into the Newmags making another run to the NCAA Tournament. Academic woes are also lurking in the background.

Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson together form an explosive backcourt combo, and last year’s unexpected emergence of freshman Hernst Laroche as a top ball-handling point guard gave the young Aggies a much-needed floor leader. In the paint, Wendell McKines averaged a double-double every night — the only player in the WAC to do so. Together with Troy Gillenwater and Hamidu Rahman, New Mexico State fields the conference’s deepest frontcourt.

But the Aggies’ powerful offense had to fire on all cylinders every night last year, because the team was incapable of making stops. NMSU had the conference’s worst defense, giving up 74.4 points per game. Some of that can be attributed to the Aggies’ youth and inexperience, but unless the listless defensive effort improves dramatically, Marvin Menzies’ team will have a tough time stopping the conference’s upper-tier foes.

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Good Morning Vandal Nation: Oct. 27, 2009

27 Oct

Morning breaks with the news that the Idaho/Boise State game is under consideration for ESPN’s College GameDay. The Idaho Statesman reports that Idaho needs to win at least one — and preferably both — of its games between now and Nov. 14. The good news? Both are at home. The bad news? Fresno State comes to town in two weeks with one of the nation’s most dangerous rushers.

With that, here’s today’s links:

Football

Basketball

    Volleyball

    Soccer

    Tennis

    Vandal Spotlight: Marvin Jefferson, on the season to come

    26 Oct

    VXZCBPJBHSXDQVK.20090222052811We sat down with Vandal center Marvin Jefferson last week, and the Silver and Gold’s big man had some big thoughts for us. So much, that we had to break up his interview into two parts!

    Last week, we posted the first half of our interview, as Jefferson looked back at the season that was.

    Today, we’ve got the second half — talking to Marvin about the Vandals’ hopes for the coming season, his plans after he completes his senior season for Idaho and his thoughts about the competition in the WAC.

    The Vandals’ season tips off this week with scrimmages tomorrow in Coeur d’Alene and Friday in Moscow. The Silver and Gold Game begins at 6 p.m. in Memorial Gym, as part of Idaho’s homecoming festivities. The season-opening exhibition game against St. Martin’s is set for 8:05 p.m. on Nov. 6, also in Mem Gym.

    How did your summer go? I understand there was a real emphasis on working together and building the whole team.

    I was here the entire summer and didn’t go home once. All the guys were here for most of the summer. We all got together, worked, lifted, studied, it was almost like in season. We were self-motivated and that was the best part, I think. It’s not just the coaches pushing us — we all want to up our game.

    A lot of the freshmen came in during the summer, they got on board with the system and we got to know them. Everyone on the team got to know each other — there’s no awkwardness, nobody on the team is left out and we’re real tight-knit.

    It’s a step up from last year because last summer nobody was here. Those few extra months with everyone together and playing basketball, it’s going to pay off this season.

    What are the parts of your game you want to work on?

    Number one, it’s about staying out of foul trouble. I was just talking to Coach Verlin about that in my preseason meeting with him, and I have to do better at that.

    Number two, free throws — I’ve been working hard on my free throws. I think I only shot 57 percent last year and that won’t get it done. I’ve been shooting a whole lot of free throws this summer.

    Number three, I want to do better at rebounding. Also, I need to just get more mature as a player — be more consistent, take my time in the post and make smarter decisions about when to go score and when to kick the ball out.

    What do you like about your game?

    You know, I’m real critical of myself. If you ask me, I feel like I didn’t do too well at all last year. The thing I did best last year was get better, I felt like I did a good job working on my game. I need to keep doing that this year.

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    Good Morning Vandal Nation: Oct. 26, 2009

    26 Oct

    A drizzly, dark morning in Moscow to kick off Homecoming week. Fitting, given the usual weather patterns here — and the Vandals’ ugly performance in Reno this weekend. They’ll be looking to bounce back against Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

    A few programming notes: Beginning on Wednesday, we’ll be joining with Nevada Sagebrush sports editor Juan Lopez for a weekly live chat about Western Athletic Conference sports. The chat will run every Wednesday afternoon from 3 to 4 p.m. Pacific — we’ll break down the week that was, preview the week ahead and answer your questions.

    Also, hoops season kicks off this week — we’ll preview Friday’s Silver and Gold Scrimmage and have live coverage from the sidelines.

    Now to the links… which are fairly thin, as per usual for a Monday morning.

    Football

    Basketball

    Soccer

    Good Morning Vandal Nation: Oct. 25, 2009

    25 Oct

    RENO, Nev. — It’s postmortem morning in Vandal Nation, as we wait for our Southwest bird home. There’s no shortage of discussion of what went wrong in the Vandals’ 70-45 drubbing at the hands of Nevada.

    Football

    Volleyball

    Kaepernick’s Pistol barrage guns down Idaho

    24 Oct

    RENO, Nev. — Colin Kaepernick and Nevada shot up Idaho today, as the Vandals simply couldn’t find an answer to the Wolf Pack’s potent Pistol offense.

    Idaho was routed, 70-45, by a Nevada squad that put on a 662-yard offensive show for its Homecoming crowd in Mackay Stadium.

    The Wolf Pack (4-3, 3-0 WAC) scored early and often, jumping out to a 21-0 lead with nearly 14 minutes left in the first half. Nevada took it to the house four times on plays of 35 yards or longer, including an 89-yard dash by running back Vai Taua.

    “Speaking for the defense, we just got outplayed,” defensive end Aaron Lavarias admitted. “We can’t give up 70 points and expect our offense to take care of it.”

    Idaho (6-2, 3-1 WAC) tried mightily to make a game of it, racking up 24 points in the second quarter. Quarterback Nathan Enderle tossed a pair of 73-yard touchdown passes to Maurice Shaw, bookending a 59-yard touchdown run by Deonte Jackson.

    The period was capped off by a career-long 54-yard field goal from Trey Farquhar. That kick put Farquhar third on the Vandals’ all-time longest FG list and left Idaho trailing Nevada by just four points, 28-24, at halftime.

    Vandal wide receiver Max Komar, who pulled down a career-high three touchdown passes to go with 136 yards, said Enderle went to a no-huddle offense that picked apart the Wolf Pack’s porous secondary.

    “Just like what we did to Colorado State, our two-minute drill caught them off-guard,” Komar said.

    Idaho’s onside kick attempt to open the second half went awry, giving the Wolf Pack a short field. Even then, the Vandal defense appeared to have made a crucial stand in holding Nevada to a fourth-and-7 at the Idaho 35.

    But in a city of casinos, coach Chris Ault went all-in. Instead of settling for a field goal, Kaepernick kept the ball and scampered through a shattered Idaho defense into the end zone. His 35-yard touchdown run put the Wolf Pack up by 11 and Idaho would never threaten again.

    “We had some momentum and (the onside kick) was something I felt would give us the chance to win,” Idaho coach Robb Akey said. “We were being aggressive. If I want the players to attack, I have to be just as aggressive.”

    That score by Kaepernick was the first of seven consecutive touchdowns Nevada would score on a demoralized Vandal defense. The Pack’s speedy quarterback finished the game with 230 yards and four touchdowns on the ground and 178 yards and two more scores through the air.

    “As a defense, we needed to take care of No. 10 (Kaepernick),” Akey said. “It looked to me like No. 10 could have been a Heisman Trophy winner today, he played his tail off and my hat’s off to him. He outplayed us.”

    The Vandals’ defensive weaknesses were ruthlessly exposed throughout the game. Kaepernick and Taua were routinely able to pick up five or more yards on first down, as the Pistol’s misdirection befuddled Idaho’s front line. A flurry of missed tackles only compounded the misery for a Vandal defensive unit that had been ranked second in the Western Athletic Conference against the run.

    “We didn’t tackle (Kaepernick), we didn’t tackle Taua, we had Nevada backed up and they run an iso play 900 yards for a touchdown,” Akey said.

    Though the loss dropped Idaho out of the WAC lead, Akey was unbowed and even defiant. He reminded the assembled press of how far the Vandals have already come this season, in a turnaround that has sportswriters across the nation talking about the third-year coach as a Coach of the Year candidate.

    “There is everything still to play for and this football team can still accomplish everything we want to,” Akey said. “If we win the rest of our football games we still have a chance to be WAC champions. Everyone out there, you all told us we didn’t have a chance to do that. You all didn’t give us a chance to win any of these games.”

    Komar echoed Akey’s words.

    “We can’t let this ruin our season,” Komar said. “We’re still 6-2, Vandal Nation hasn’t seen a 6-2 team in so long and we’re not going to give up. Tomorrow we’ll watch film, see what we did wrong and put this game behind us.”

    Cornerback Isaac Butts went down clutching his leg while trying to chase down Taua’s first-quarter touchdown run, and did not return to the game. Akey said he suffered a hamstring injury that may keep him out for an extended period.

    “It doesn’t look good,” Akey said. “I’m concerned about next week.”

    The Vandals return to Moscow tonight, where they’ll play three of their final four games. On Saturday, Louisiana Tech will visit the Kibbie Dome for Idaho’s Homecoming. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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