LINCOLN, Neb. - A big, athlete line. Aa speedy, crafty secondary. And underneath coverage that clogged the short passing lanes were more than the University of Idaho Vandals could overcome Saturday afternoon. The end result? A turnover-filled 38-17 loss to No. 6/7 Nebraska before 85,732 mostly red-clad fans.
What will haunt the Vandals are the six turnovers - five interceptions and one lost fumble. The worst are the back-to-back second-quarter interceptions-returned for touchdowns that fueled a 28-point Husker period.
"We need to be more efficient and precise on offense," said Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle, a Nebraska native. "When you play a defense like that, you have to do what you do and do it well."
Coach Robb Akey wasn't going to point the finger of blame at his senior quarterback. Instead, he talked of the defensive front and the glove-like coverage that kept the Vandal receivers occupied throughout the warm afternoon.
"That's going against some pretty good players," he said. "There's a number of reasons for interceptions."
Idaho's total offense output was just 279 yards. The rushing net was 60 yards but that includes 70 yards in quarterback sacks and tackles for loss.
"It was very frustrating," senior running back Deonte' Jackson said. "They're a great outfit. They play man for a reason - they have great athletes."
The Vandals yielded just three points in the first quarter and only seven in the second half. It was the debacle of the second that sealed their fate.
Idaho was forced to punt on its first possession but the Vandal defense was able to limit the Huskers to a 24-yard Alex Henry field goal.
Another punt ended Idaho's second possession and Nebraska was on the march when Robert Siavii caught Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez on the blindside to force a fumble. Jonah Sataraka recovered the ball to thwart the drive and return possession to Idaho.
An acrobatic catch by Daniel Hardy brought the Vandals to midfield but, again, the drive stalled and ended with Enderle was sacked. Bobby Cowan's punt put Nebraska at its 13. A couple short runs and quick passes advanced the Huskers to their 33 before freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez did what he does best - broke free for a 67-yard TD run. With 12:15 left in the first half, Nebraska took a 10-0 lead.
The Vandals again were marching effectively only to have a pass bounce off of Eric Greenwood and wind up in the hands of Nebraska's P.J. Smith who returned it 17 yards to the Nebraska 42. On the Huskers' next play, Roy Helu found room outside and romped 58 yards to score with 8:22 left before halftime. The successful PAT made it 17-0.
Disaster struck again on the Vandals' next possession when DeJon Gomes stepped in front of Maurice Shaw, grabbed Enderle's pass and ran 40 yards to score with 6:07 left in the second quarter.
It was deju vu on Idaho's next possession - only this time it was Rickey Thenarse stepping in front of Shaw and taking it 47 yards to score. With 4:00 to go before the half, Nebraska went up 31-0.
Idaho managed to score as time ran out in the second quarter when Trey Farquhar connected on a 34-yard field goal.
The second half started with promise when Aaron Lavarias recovered a fumble at the Nebraska 16. Idaho wound up settling for a 30-yard field goal attempt, which strayed wide to the left to leave the score at 31-3.
Shiloh Keo, with his 10th career interception, gave Idaho another shot - this time the Vandals capitalized with a two-yard Enderle to Michael LaGrone TD pass with 5:23 left in the third. Keo's return gave Idaho the ball at the Nebraska 12. Deonte' Jackson moved it to the two with a run up the middle. After a no gain on the next play, Enderle found LaGrone on the goal line for the score. Farquhar's kick made it 31-10.
Memorial Stadium's home field magic for the Huskers was evidenced on Nebraska's next possession when Martinez was stripped of the ball by Kenny Patten as he headed for the end zone. The ball bounced out of his hands around the eight and hopped into the end zone where Martinez pounced on it for the score. With 1:22 left in the third, Nebraska led 38-10.
Idaho's final score was a 19-yard pass from Brian Reader to Armauni Johnson with 2:31 left in the game.