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.”
Logan, UT — Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow nor sideways rain could put a damper on the University of Idaho Vandal football team, which fought off not only the inclement weather but also the Utah State Aggies to keep their bowl hopes alive in a 28-6 victory on enemy turf.
“We’ve got a football team that had a lot of fun playing the game again and that means a lot,” Akey said. “We’re a wildcard playoff team, we need three, we’ve got one down and two to go.”
Akey took the field in a warm parka, and gas heaters were positioned by both benches to keep the gnawing cold away, as the weather turned progressively worse in Logan. The game kicked off with 40 mile-per-hour gusting winds, which turned quickly to horizontal rain and finally to a blizzard that covered the Merlin-Olson Field.
Idaho wide receiver Eric Greenwood said he was excited to play in such weather, saying he was used to playing in rain and sleet, but football in a full blizzard was new to him.
“When we first came out is started to drizzle, and I’m used to playing in that from western Washington,” Greenwood said. “The snow was kinda different though, I’d never played in snow — I enjoyed it.”
Through it all, the Vandals held tough in a must win game. The Vandals need to win their final three games to become bowl eligible, and Idaho took steps in the right direction, displaying the kinds of things that have been missing from their game of late.
“That was one of the better defensive performances we’ve had,” said Idaho senior defensive end Aaron Lavarias. “It was a tough stretch we had these past few weeks and I thought (today) we played pretty dang good.”
The Vandals forced turnovers, put pressure on Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel, causing two interceptions and recording one sack, and the Vandals limited the Aggies to 242 total offensive yards.
“That was our game plan going in,” Lavarias said. “We thought he (Borel) was the key to their offense and I thought he get much going tonight — we really executed out game plan well.”
The Vandals got off to a slow start, as the Aggies, playing at home for the last time this year, as well as having a chance to clinch a season-best five-game winning season, brought a fearless effort that overwhelmed the Vandals. Continue reading
With two weeks to go before college football kicks off, the sudden disintegration of the Western Athletic Conference has woken up sportswriters and bloggers from their fall camp reverie. We’ve got a compilation of the best (and bizarrest) writing on the WACsplosion.
- The latest-breaking development? Utah State confirms it, too, was approached by the MWC and offered membership — before either Fresno State or Nevada. But with honor and commitment, the Aggies refused to betray the WAC. Everyone left in the conference should consider USU their heroes. They rejected self-interested sabotage, and I hope they, and we, come out ahead for it.
- Sam Wasson’s BleedCrimson.net has a great rundown of this morning’s press conference with Karl Benson.
- SWX has a story on Idaho Athletic Director Rob Spear’s press conference this afternoon. In short, Idaho is “committed” to staying with the WAC, come hell and high water. KXLY’s Ben Kaplan provides his take, too.
- ESPN’s Pat Forde examines the brutal history of the MWC and WAC’s “conference cannibalism.” Ray Ratto has similar thoughts at CBSSports.com.
- San Jose State is left in limbo, Jon Wilner writes in the Mercury News. Join the club, says Louisiana Tech — most damningly, the Bulldogs’ AD all but invites his program to be poached by another conference, preferably C-USA. Stephen Tsai of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser says Hawaii should quit the WAC and go independent.
- Whither BYU? Good question, as Cougar AD Tom Holmoe provides only cryptic answers to the Deseret News. “Things are playing out” indeed.
- Could Sacramento State and UC Davis save the WAC? That’s what the Sacramento Bee’s John Schumacher is wondering. The more Aggies the merrier, I suppose.
- Nevada got an offer it couldn’t refuse, or so says Scott Sonner. Yet Utah State did refuse it. Hmm.
- Silver and Blue Sports has a report on Nevada’s move up to the MWC. The Reno Gazette-Journal’s Chris Murray examines how the move might affect Wolf Pack programs.
- The Fresno Bee’s Dan Lyght and Bryant-Jon Anteola have a whole slew of stories on the Bulldogs’ jump to the MWC.
With the defections of Fresno State and Nevada to the Mountain West Conference effective in 2012, the future of the Western Athletic Conference is now in doubt — no matter how much WAC commish Karl Benson might try to deny it.
In an 80-minute marathon teleconference this morning, Benson spun like a top, talking about the “selfish” betrayal of the Bulldogs and the Wolf Pack on the eve of what could have been the conference’s grandest coup: recapturing BYU.
Yes, the WAC will get $10 million in buyout money and no, the latest defectors can’t leave for two years.
But the words WAC fans most needed to hear — solid commitments from new members — were conspicuously missing. Lots of what-ifs, possibilities and conversations, with Benson mentioning teams from Texas to California as being potentially interested in joining.
Unfortunately, the WAC can’t afford what-ifs, possibilities and conversations right now. The conference, and its six remaining members, need fresh blood to remain a viable league. If new members aren’t found by 2012, and the WAC drops to six teams for even a single season, we’re essentially talking about a dead league walking.
Already Benson admitted that Louisiana Tech is looking to bolt for Conference USA. Who else is thinking about finding an escape hatch? More to the point, who isn’t looking for an escape hatch at this point?
Imagine one of those ticking 24 clocks. Benson and the six WAC presidents realistically have only a few months to find a savior or two. Otherwise, it’s going to be every man for himself and the Western Athletic Conference will join the Pacific Coast Conference, the Metro Conference and the Southwest Conference, among others, in the annals of NCAA history.
For the Vandals’ part, we’ll have more thoughts after athletic director Rob Spear talks at 2 p.m. Pacific. The upshot? Idaho is in a horrible situation, yet there’s really no better alternative. It’s either ride out the WAC storm, go down with the ship or limp back to the Big Sky and FCS. If anyone has a better idea, let me know.
RENO, Nev. — We’re back in the Lawlor Events Center for the second day of quarterfinal action in the 2010 Western Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament.
The bracket for the men’s quarterfinals looks like this:
(1) Utah State vs. (8) Boise State — noon
(4) Louisiana Tech vs. (5) Fresno State — 2:30 p.m.
(3) New Mexico State vs. (6) San Jose State — 8:30 p.m.
We’ll have complete liveblog coverage of the Vandals/Wolf Pack showdown, with pregame analysis starting at 5:30 p.m., tip at 6.
The winners will play Friday in the semifinals, with the 1/8 and 4/5 winners squaring off in one matchup, the 2/7 and 3/6 winners in the other.
Yesterday, Idaho’s women made history, becoming the first Vandal team to reach the semifinals in any WAC basketball tournament since Idaho joined the conference in 2005. They defeated New Mexico State, 75-63, and will play the No. 1 seeded Fresno State Bulldogs on Friday at noon.
- For a complete rundown on the day’s conference tournament action across the mid-major leagues, check out The Mid-Majority’s Tourney Central.
- Follow us on Twitter — @VandalNation — for live courtside scoring updates throughout the WAC Tournament.
- The Spokesman-Review’s Josh Wright has a game preview of this evening’s Idaho/Nevada showdown.
- Nick Jezierny of the Idaho Statesman looks at Boise State’s final chance to make something of a disappointing season. Nick also checks in with a quicky on Idaho’s win over NMSU and storylines to watch this week.
- The Nevada Sagebrush is all over the WAC Tournament.
- Idaho’s “sneaky” squad could pose a threat to the Wolf Pack’s NCAA Tournament hopes — at least, so says the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Chris Murray.
- Kraig Williams, a very good friend of the Vandal Nation, is liveblogging everything for Rush the Court. (h/t to Parsing the WAC.)
- Also check out the Las Cruces Bulletin’s courtside coverage.
RENO, Nev. — A light dusting of snow fell on the Washoe Valley last night, as the eight Western Athletic Conference women’s basketball teams which qualified for the tournament get ready to play this afternoon. Four of their NCAA Tournament dreams will end today.
The bracket for the women’s tourney looks like this:
(1) Fresno State vs. (8) Hawaii — noon
(3) Nevada vs. (6) Boise State — 6 p.m.
(2) Louisiana Tech vs. (7) Utah State — 8:30 p.m.
The 1/4 game winner and the 2/3 game winner will play Friday in the semifinals.
We’ll go live from courtside at 2 p.m. for pregame coverage of the Idaho/New Mexico State matchup.
- Jared Eborn reports on Utah State coach Stew Morrill getting a slap on the wrist from WAC commish Karl Benson. Apparently, he said something naughty to NMSU guard Jahmar Young, who had just been T’ed up. (h/t to Parsing the WAC)
- Continuing the trend, Eborn talks to Stew about the Aggies’ NCAA chances. Unsurprisingly, he thinks USU should be in. (So do we, by the way.)
- The Lewiston Tribune’s Dale Grummert has more on the Kashif Watson kerfuffle, noting that the suspended guard has now protected his Twitter page.
- The Wall Street Journal has a brutal take on the Mid-American Conference’s competitive woes.
- The Mid-Majority talks to court-rushing gurus Marco Anskis and Eric “Extra P” Angeline in TMM’s Second Annual Floor-Storming Symposium. (Someone needs to get a Ph.D in post-game celebrations.)
It’s been a long month since our last power rankings — academics and a three-day spell in the ICU are to blame for that. We’re trying to get back in the groove here at Vandal Nation, and we appreciate your patience. The stretch run to the 2010 WAC Tournament is underway, and these final weeks will set the stage for those amazing three days of basketball.
1. Utah State, 18-6, 8-2 (7) — What a difference a month makes. Last time around, the Blue Aggies were 0-2 in the conference and seemingly had lost their mojo. Not so, and we’ll never think that about a Stew Morrill team again. Since then, Utah State has ripped off eight straight conference wins to take control of their own destiny in the conference race. Finding their groove was pretty simple: just go back to what works, like Jared Quayle droppin’ in jumpers and Tai Wesley banging it in the post. Then, like Stew always manages to do, find some random guy to just have a huge breakout season — like Brian Green’s ridiculous .667 shooting percentage from downtown. It’s the Aggies’ race to lose.
2. New Mexico State, 15-8, 8-2 (4) — OK, we think it’s really fishy that Wendell McKines and Troy Gillenwater just somehow magically managed to get cleared mid-season, but you can’t argue with the results and the record for New Mexico State. Marvin Menzies’ team is hitting its stride at the right time, as shown two nights ago with a gutty win over Louisiana Tech. Their defense is still utterly atrocious but in Menzies’ trademark style, they have enough firepower to make up for it. That loss at San Jose State could haunt them down the stretch, though, as the all-Aggies season finale in Logan is now shaping up to be a titanic battle for the conference title.
3. Louisiana Tech, 19-5, 7-3 (1) — The WAC’s early juggernaut has staggered somewhat midseason, having lost three of their last five games and with a tough fight at Utah State looming just over the horizon. It seems opponents have maybe started to figure out Kerry Rupp’s system and the Gulf Coast Bulldogs don’t have the depth to withstand foul trouble in the paint. Still, by any measure this has been an excellent season for Louisiana Tech, though their weak non-conference schedule is going to come back and bite them right about now. Thanks to a slate full of cupcakes like UT-Pan American (twice!) and Nicholls State, the Bulldogs have no hope of an at-large bid to the NCAAs despite their gaudy record. If they want to go dancing, they’ll have to be the last team standing in Reno.
4. Nevada, 13-9, 5-4 (2) — The Wolf Pack: they are who we thought they were. Yes, Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson are studs — but Nevada’s lack of depth has cost them dearly, most notably in a pair of losses to Utah State and a shocker road upset by Fresno State. Not to worry, Nevada fans, because there’s still more than enough firepower and talent to get the Wolf Pack back into the WAC Tournament title game on their home court. But they’ll have a much tougher path than last year. Nevada hasn’t been great on the road, and a loss tonight at Idaho would put paid to any hopes of a top-two seed for David Carter’s squad.
5. San Jose State, 12-11, 5-6 (5) — We like San Jose State. Scrappy, upset-minded and currently undefeated on their home court. Unfortunately, the Spartans have also suffered some inexplicable losses, most notably being one of Hawaii’s two victories. They’re one of only two WAC teams with no road wins. That perfect home record is also about to get its toughest challenge of the season, too, as Utah State comes calling on Saturday. Still, if you’re looking for a sleeper pick to make some noise in the WAC Tournament, San Jose State is my choice. Their balanced offense and strong rebounding gives the Spartans the tools to maybe pull an upset.
6. Idaho, 11-11, 3-7 (3) — Ugh. January was monthus horriblis for Don Verlin’s Idaho Vandals, who went on a six-game losing streak capped by a heartbreaking overtime defeat at home to arch-rival Boise State. Fortunately for Vandal fans, that seems to have been the final straw for a squad that was way underachieving its talent level. Since then, Idaho has won three of its last four games, including a huge 24-point revenge victory in Boise powered by .500 shooting from downtown. Tonight, a nationally-televised showdown against Nevada awaits. Are the Vandals for real this time? A victory in front of the ESPN2 cameras would say “yes.” Then it’s on to Fresno State, and a road win there would put Idaho in the drivers’ seat for a 5-seed.
7. Fresno State, 12-12, 5-5 (6) — This is a team on the way down, unless they can find a way to put things back together, and fast. The WAC’s West Coast Bulldogs have lost five of their last seven, with only a nice home win over Nevada to hang their hats on. Some of the blame can be put on Paul George’s absence for some of those games, but some of it has to fall on coach Steve Cleveland. Fresno State was a talented but utterly disorganized mess against Idaho, and they lost to Boise State, too. A two-game homestand against New Mexico State and the Vandals awaits this week, and we’ll find out whether the Bulldogs can get back together or not.
8. Hawaii, 9-14, 2-8 (8) — Bob Nash’s team has hit the wall with a sickening “splat.” His best players are walking wounded, his marquee transfer guard is suspended indefinitely and he hasn’t recorded a win in nearly a month. Next up for the Rainbow Warriors? The doubly-grueling road trip to Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Nor does the rest of the schedule promise any relief — in fact, it’s quite possible they won’t get a win the rest of the season. If that happens, Nash is toast. For students of sports history who want to see what a program in crisis looks like, book your tickets for Honolulu now.
9. Boise State, 11-12, 2-8 (9) — Boy, we feel for Greg Graham. No sooner does he look like a hero for spoiling Idaho’s season with an upset win in Moscow… than he becomes the goat of the Broncos’ worst-ever home loss to the Vandals in the history of the basketball rivalry. The things that were said about him on various Internet message boards are not fit for family consumption. Even the Idaho Statesman’s Nick Jezierny got in on the action, wondering if the Broncos had shown up to Taco Bell Arena thinking it was bake sale day — they sure brought the turnovers. Ouch. Nor do things get easier, with games against Utah State and at Nevada on the docket this week. Boise State is on the verge of the unthinkable: missing the WAC Tournament.
Well, it’s do or die time for the Idaho Vandals. Is there anything left? A Paul George-less Bulldog squad comes to town tonight, and it’s the Vandals’ last chance at getting a win out of a three-game homestand that’s seen losses to Utah State and arch-rival Boise State.
We’ll have all the action for you with pregame at 6:45 p.m., tip at 7.
The Idaho women are back in action tonight against the Utah State Aggies, and Jon Newlee’s squad will be looking to build momentum off a road split last week.
We’ll have all the action from courtside in the Cowan Spectrum. Join us for pregame coverage at 6:30 p.m., tip at 7.
In a season where Idaho has struggled to make free throws and hang onto the ball, tonight at home against Utah State the Vandals did both of those tasks quite well. The Vandals converted on 14 of 17 attempts from the charity stripe and gave up just six turnovers all night.
But in the second half, it was the shooting-the-ball-into-the-hoop thing the Vandals couldn’t quite get the hang of.
Bewildered by the Aggies’ lockdown zone defense, Idaho converted on just four of 22 shots from the floor in the second period — scoring a season-low 18 points in those 20 minutes. Those aren’t the kind of numbers that will get it done against Stew Morrill’s Utah State squad, and they didn’t. The Vandals took their fifth straight Western Athletic Conference loss, falling to the Aggies in the Cowan Spectrum, 60-48.
“We got two holes plugged and some others busted tonight,” coach Don Verlin said, with a frustrated chuckle. “I made some personnel changes to get us to be more efficient and I thought we were at times, but then we don’t rebound or shoot as well as we have been. We just have to keep grinding. It’s the only thing I know to do.”
Early on, the game looked like it would become a punch-for-punch slugfest. The Vandals (8-9, 1-5 WAC) struggled to find consistent offense, as Utah State (15-6, 5-2 WAC) stifled point guard Mac Hopson’s game early. But Idaho’s Steffan Johnson and Kashif Watson joined together to pick up the slack with cut-and-slash drives and high-percentage shooting. Hopson recognized his situation and cleanly moved the ball out of the traps, dishing up five assists for just one turnover — one of his best ball-movement nights of the season.
But in the paint, it was all blue. The Aggies’ interior combo of Tai Wesley, Nate Bendall and Brady Jardine appeared to be unstoppable all night long, exploiting holes in the defense and tearing through the paint at will. Utah State owned a 35-23 rebounding edge in the game.
“They outphysicaled us, tonight they just beat us in the trenches,” Verlin said. “Wesley and Bendall and Jardine, they kicked our tail on the boards and in the paint and it was about that simple.”
The Vandals are back in action after a week-long bye, and they open up a week-long homestand against one of the Western Athletic Conference’s toughest foes: Utah State.
If Don “Merlin” Verlin has any magic in the back pocket, it better come out this afternoon. For Idaho to have any shot at a top-half seeding in the conference tournament, the Vandals need to sweep their three-game set in the Cowan Spectrum.
The other storyline: Aggie head honcho Stew Morrill, Verlin’s coaching mentor, is searching for his 500th win as a head coach tonight. Can Mac Hopson, Steffan Johnson and the rest of the Vandals keep his big night at bay?
We’ll have complete coverage from courtside, with pregame at 4:30 p.m., tip at 5.
Tomorrow, the Idaho Vandals come off a week-long bye to begin a week-long homestand against three tough Western Athletic Conference foes — Utah State on Saturday, Boise State on Monday and Fresno State on Thursday.
We talked with coach Don Verlin, guard Kashif Watson and center Marvin Jefferson about what the Vandals have to do to get back on the winning track — and potentially use this three-game stretch to put Idaho right back in the WAC hunt.