SEATTLE— Jake Locker and the Washington Huskies had their way with the Idaho Vandals’ defense today, as the Huskies scored touchdowns on all three of their first-half possessions en route to a 42-23 victory in Husky Stadium.
Junior quarterback Nate Enderle effectively led Idaho’s offensive attack, throwing for 279 yards on 22-of-33 passing. But the Vandals (1-1, 1-0 WAC) racked up seven penalties for 63 yards in the first quarter alone, including three consecutive flags that killed the opening drive. Once the Vandals reached the red zone, the offense sputtered — three first-half drives inside the 20 resulted only in three Trey Farquhar field goals.
“We had opportunities, we just didn’t capitalize on them,” Enderle said. “If those drives had been touchdowns, we’d have been tied going into halftime (instead of being down by 12). That’s a huge swing. We shot ourselves in the foot.”
Coach Robb Akey was frustrated at the flag-filled first quarter, and was quick to lay the blame squarely at the feet of his squad.
“I’ve never seen so many holding penalties called in one game. It’s not that they were called, it’s the fact that we did it and I’m not happy about it,” Akey said.
The Huskies (1-1), who had lost 15 consecutive games dating back to November 2007, took full advantage of Idaho’s missteps to break the nation’s longest futility streak. On their first three possessions, they scored touchdowns, and out of nine total drives, six ended in the end zone. Locker threw for 253 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17-25 passing, and ran in for a touchdown of his own. Chris Polk rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown, including several huge third-down conversions.
Overall, Washington converted 11 of its 14 third downs and, just to rub it in, a key fourth-down conversion which resulted in the Huskies’ third first-half score. The Vandals managed just 4 of 12 on third-down plays.
“When we give up those kinds of third-down conversions, we lose the game,” Akey said. “Every third down is an opportunity to take their offense off the field and get something going. We didn’t make those plays and the Huskies did.”
As the game’s second half began with the Vandals trailing 21-9, the Huskies’ Curtis Shaw fumbled the kickoff return and Idaho linebacker Korey Toomer grabbed what seemed like a game-changing turnover. The Vandals were suddenly deep in Husky territory and on the verge of bringing the game within a score. But on the drive’s third play, Enderle was picked off by Husky linebacker Mason Foster, and four plays later, Washington had its fourth touchdown.
“I just didn’t see (Foster),” Enderle admitted. “He dropped right in and grabbed the ball. That’s all I can say.”
Max Komar led the Vandals’ receiving corps with 5 catches for 111 yards, and made several big kickoff return plays. He said the offense was able to effectively exploit weaknesses in the Huskies’ secondary, but the inability to finish drives was “a killer.”
“We saw on the film that (Washington) had a really good front seven but a vulnerable secondary, and that’s where we wanted to push,” Komar said.
The Enderle interception may have been the nail in the coffin for Idaho’s comeback hopes, and Komar said the offense has to take the blame.
“We came out excited, the kickoff return team got us a turnover and that’s something you have to take advantage of. You have to be able to score in that situation. We didn’t,” Komar said. “I saw a lot of people with their heads down after that play.”
Backup quarterback Brian Reader came out for the Vandals’ final series, and led an efficient, 92-yard touchdown drive in the game’s waning minutes that saw running back De’Maundray Woolridge punch in from 6 yards out. Reader performed solidly, throwing 4-of-7 for 70 yards. Akey said he was just getting Reader some game time, not auditioning for a potential starting quarterback change.
“We were 26 points down, I just wanted to see what Brian can do because he has to be ready for whatever the need may be. I saw some good things,” Akey said.
Woolridge led the Vandals’ rushing attack and scored both touchdowns. Here, though, “led” is relative — he managed just 41 yards on 7 carries. A frustrated Woolridge said he wasn’t happy with anything but a W.
“I may have put some points on the board, but overall that doesn’t satisfy me at all,” Woolridge said.
The Vandals return to Moscow for their home opener on Sept. 19, when they’ll take on the San Diego State Aztecs in the newly-remodeled Kibbie Dome at 2 p.m.