[Vandal] Vandals Find A Way
robiegruss at aol.com
robiegruss at aol.com
Sun Mar 28 13:41:48 PDT 2021
>From the Daily NewsMoscow, IdahoSunday, March 28, 2021
Vandals Find A Way
Third-string quarterback throws winning touchdown pass with 7 second left as Idaho edges Southern Utah
By Colton Clark, Sports staff Mar 28, 2021 Updated 4 hrs ago Comments
MOSCOW — Initially, the spotlight was on Idaho’s second man up at quarterback — a true freshman who many expect will wind up as the program’s future at the position, a dynamic Northwest product who was playing an impressive game in his first real taste of college ball.
Yet by the end of Saturday’s wild, seesaw Big Sky battle at the Kibbie Dome, the Vandals’ third-year third-stringer had stolen the show in remarkable fashion.
Nikhil Nayar, an unsung redshirt sophomore out of Mercer Island, Wash., sparkled after taking over for injured rookie CJ Jordan late in the third quarter, guiding Idaho’s methodical two-minute series at the end of the fourth and tossing the go-ahead touchdown pass to junior Cutrell Haywood with seven seconds remaining.
The Vandals came back from a two-score deficit in the last period to chalk up a 33-32 victory against Southern Utah in their home finale of the conference’s six-game spring season.
“CJ was phenomenal, and Nikhil came out there and took it upon himself to win the game,” senior Idaho running back Dylan Thigpen said. “It was a team effort, and it was incredible.”
Regular starter Mike Beaudry was absent for unspecified reasons. Idaho hadn’t played since March 6 because of COVID-19 issues within the program.
For most of three quarters, the evasive, poised Jordan had the Vandal offense chugging along.
But the Portland, Ore., native sustained an apparent minor ankle injury when he was twisted up on a sack that pushed Idaho (2-1) out of SUU territory on third down, with the Vandals trailing 22-20.
The Thunderbirds (1-3) quickly deepened Idaho’s hole with a 60-yard touchdown pass from Justin Miller to Landen Measom, who brushed off one tackler on a short hitch and raced away.
“They (the Vandals) hung together,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “They expected to win. That’s one of our big mottos. ... If you expect to win, you keep fighting to the end, and they did.”
In response, Nayar connected with standout sophomore receiver Hayden Hatten on a nifty, 40-yard jump ball. Hatten soon after capped the series with an 8-yard scoring grab, trimming the deficit to 29-27 early in the fourth. He continued his spring tear with 155 yards on 12 grabs.Idaho’s defense, which was missing its centerpiece at linebacker in Tre Walker, came up with a must-have stop on the ensuing possession. A QB pressure from Charles Akanno induced an errant toss from Miller, which was picked by Vandal junior Awan Parker at the Idaho 12-yard line.
“Defense didn’t play very well in the first half, but boy, they stepped up and did a great job in the second,” Petrino said. “Everyone played a big role in it. That’s why it’s just a super great team victory.”
The T-birds were held to a field goal on the following drive. They didn’t drain enough clock, leaving the door open for Nayar and Co.
The Vandals went 82 yards on 15 plays in a gutty final possession that included a fourth-and-6 conversion pass from Nayar to sophomore Nick Romano (81 total yards).
Nayar picked up sizable chunks in between safe overthrows during Idaho’s structured two-minute drill. Haywood — whose touchdown drop late in the second quarter forced Idaho to settle for a field goal — got a step on his defender in the back of the end zone, and made amends with the 7-yard clincher.
Each of SUU’s losses have come on final drives.
“I had a gut feeling we were gonna win that game no matter how long it took,” said linebacker Fa’avae Fa’avae, who led all players with 18 tackles as Idaho mostly stuck with a 4-2-5 defense.
Said Petrino of Nayar: “Can’t be more proud of him. He was out for a long time for different reasons, and he came back and really worked hard. He was sharp, he knew what he was doing and did a good job taking what the defense gave him.”
Nayar passed 12-for-20 for 143 yards and two scores. Jordan showed off his pocket mobility and a range of throws, going 16-for-27 for 183 yards, and gaining 65 on the ground.
“Some (plays) looked like he wasn’t gonna make it, but then he broke three people’s ankles,” said Thigpen, who burst through gaps in his O-line for 110 yards on nine carries (12.2 yards per).
The Vandals returned juniors Logan Floyd and Matt Faupusa after starting four freshmen on their offensive line March 6. They totaled 209 ground yards to more than double their season total in that column.
In all, the T-birds were limited to 53 yards rushing.
Idaho outgained SUU 535-475 in what began as a shootout before turning in the T-birds’ favor in the second quarter, when two Idaho possessions went for naught.
The Vandals’ offense began to sputter in SUU territory after two scoring drives — Jordan had led a stellar opening series, culminating with a 1-yard Roshaun Johnson plunge. Afterward, Cade Coffey split the uprights on a 36-yard field-goal attempt.
Miller, meanwhile, was cozy in his pocket. The pressure was nonexistent, and he made Idaho’s defensive backs pay.
The breakout sophomore hit Brandon Schenks on a crossing route for 48 yards to set up SUU’s first touchdown. He found Schenks alone deep downfield two drives later for a 68-yard score, then torched the Vandals with a 46-yard rainbow to Dayne Christiansen. That led to another short-yardage TD toss, extending the T-bird edge to 22-10 with 5:32 until the half.
Miller finished his day 25-for-39 for 422 yards and three touchdowns. But Idaho shored up its defense, applying pressure and becoming more consistent with open-field tackling. Miller was 14-for-26 for 211 yards and both of his picks after the break.
SUU’s offense got stifled on three consecutive drives in the third quarter and Idaho closed it to 22-20 with a 24-yard Thigpen scoring scamper.
“I think the Vandals are just tough,” Thigpen said. “This is a tough bunch of people. We never give in, and I don’t think we let the scoreboard dictate how we come out there and play the game.”
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Vandal