Korey Toomer is listed on the roster as an outside linebacker, but don’t tell him that. Toomer, who has been used over the past few weeks as a short-yardage back, scored three times in the Idaho Vandals 49-42 double-overtime loss to the Utah State Aggies.
The game had more storylines than any this season, as 20 seniors took the field in the Kibbie Dome for the last time in their college careers. Senior captain and quarterback Brian Reader got the start and played the entire game, completing 27-39 of his passes for 275 yards and one touchdown.
Reader who has struggled all season, and was benched in favor of sophomore backup Taylor Davis two weeks ago, threw only one interception against the Aggies. It was on fourth down in the second overtime.
Reader said that this game will go down as one of his favorite memories as a Vandal, especially because he got to spend it with a team that doesn’t quit.
“I don’t care what people say right now, we just have a lot of fight in us,” Reader said.
“We are a couple of plays away from having a winning record, and it hasn’t always been like that. A few years ago we were getting beat 70-7 and that hasn’t been the way this year.”
Idaho fell behind early, after a quick Utah State touchdown drive that took less than five minutes. The Vandals answered back though when Reader found wide receiver Mike Scott in the back of the end zone tying the game up at 7-7.
Two Utah State scores later, one of which was an 80-yard run by junior running back Robert Turbin, the Vandals found themselves in another hole, down 21-7 before halftime. Idaho kicker Trey Farquhar was able to draw the game a little closer with a 23-yard field goal before going into the half. The Vandals trailed 21-10 at the break.
Idaho coach Robb Akey said that he was impressed with how efficiently the offense moved the ball against Utah State, especially in the air, an area in which Idaho has struggled since their win over North Dakota in week two.
“We made more plays in the throwing game than we have in the past, that’s something to really be excited about,” Akey said. “We were tuned in to slug it out with them.”
Another senior who had a big game for the Vandals was defensive captain Tre’Shawn Robinson, who tallied up 20 total tackles and caused one fumble on the afternoon.
Robinson said that a game like this is frustrating, but the defense feels strong and that they will keep fighting.
“We’re all a close-knit group, I mean we practice together every day and we see each other every day,” Robinson said. “We definitely tried to give a little extra and get the win today.”
Big plays were the theme of the second half for both teams, with the two sides scoring a combined 60 points between the second half and the two overtimes.
Farquhar hit his second 23-yard field goal of the game to open the second half scoring, and on the ensuing possession Toomer was able to deflect a pass from Aggies quarterback Adam Kennedy which fell into the arms of senior safety Quin Ashely who returned it 78 yards for the score. A two point conversion tied the game up a 21-21.
The Idaho defense forced four turnovers from the Utah State offense in the second half, but were only able to get 10 points out of it, a stat that frustrated Akey.
“When there’s a defensive score that’s a great thing,” Akey said. “But by taking the ball away that many times in a half you would think that you could make more things happen on the scoreboard.”
The Aggies struck big-play gold less than two minutes later as wide receiver Stanley Morrison took a bubble screen on third down 63 yards for another Utah State score, putting the Aggies up 28-21.
That’s when the Toomer show started.
After a six play, 73 yard drive from the Vandals, Toomer dove head-first into the pile of Aggies defenders for his first touchdown of the season, tying the game up once again.
In the nine offensive appearances Toomer made, eight of them resulted in him getting the ball, something he said he hopes defenses start to notice.
“If I could, I’d tell (the other team’s defense) the play, tell them where I’m going and see if they can stop me,” Toomer said. “Theres nothing like hitting people, I just like hitting people.”
After the first Toomer score, Utah State went back to what they do best, running the football. They took the lead once again after running back Michael Smith trotted seven yards into the end zone bringing the score to 35-28.
Once again, Toomer had the answer for Idaho, as he ran in his second score from one yard out on the heels of another seven play drive, this one spanning 76 yards.
The Vandals had two more chances to win the game in regulation after wide receiver Justin Hernandez forced a fumble on an Aggies kickoff return, giving Idaho the ball at the Utah State 34 yard line, but after a stalled offensive drive, Farquhar missed a 44-yard field goal attempt off the upright.
The second missed opportunity came with 1:40 left in regulation as Robinson was able to get a fist on the ball and jar it loose from the arms of Turbin. Defensive end Benson Mayowa was able to recover the ball at the Utah State 43 yard line. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called against Idaho on the ensuing play though which pushed them out of field goal range.
Tied at 35-35 the game went into overtime where after winning the coin toss, Utah State elected to be on offense second, sending out Reader and the Vandals to try and strike first.
They did just that.
A two yard score from Toomer and a Farquhar extra point put the Vandals up 42-35.
On the next possession, the Aggies faced a fourth and goal from the one yard line. A stop would have sealed the victory for Idaho, but a score from Turbin evened the game back up at 42-42.
In the second overtime, Utah State got the ball first and struck quickly as Turbin ran in his third touchdown of the game giving the Aggies the 49-42 lead. Turbin ended the game with 24 rushes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He also became the Aggies single-season rushing touchdowns record holder and surpassed the 3,000 rushing yard mark for his career.
The Vandals had one final opportunity to even the game back up, and after a Reader interception was overturned by the replay booth, and a Daniel Micheletti first down reception, Reader had the ball on the eight yard line on fourth down. Looking for Scott in the back of the end zone, Reader’s pass was tipped at the last second and intercepted ending the game.
Akey said that he never likes to lose, especially on senior day, but that he saw a lot of good come from this game and looks forward to the season finale on Dec. 3 against the Nevada Wolf Pack.
“Exciting game, terrible ending,” Akey said. “Two teams played their hearts out today. We just need to play better and make one more play, I sound like a broken record out there, but our guys played with a lot of passion.”