|Vandals bowl eligible after sixth win|
MOSCOW, Idaho - The chant began as the final seconds ticked off the game clock: "Bowl Eligible!"
Indeed, the Idaho Vandals are bowl eligible after beating Hawai'i 35-23 at the Kibbie Dome Saturday afternoon in a Western Athletic Conference football game.
With the victory, coach Robb Akey's team:
And, yes, became bowl eligible with the magical sixth victory.
"Now," Akey said, "that doesn't mean we've got one. It just means we're eligible. Now we enjoy this victory today and, starting tomorrow, we start planning for win No. 7."
That was the mindset of all the Vandals, who were all but counted out of the bowl picture in preseason polls only to show the moxie and poise necessary to put their name among those bidding for post-season play.
No. 6 came against a Hawai'i team that, even with a third string quarterback, is noted for its gaudy offensive numbers. Saturday was no different for the Warriors but the Vandals were able to match them yard for yard - almost. The yard tally was UH444, Idaho 420 but what mattered were the 35 points to 23 points.
Quarterback Nate Enderle was a crisp 14-of-17 for 226 yards and one TD - a 60-yarder to Maurice Shaw, and the ever steady, consistent and productive run game made its mark with 194 yards. Sophomore Princeton McCarty led the way with 89 yards but it was DeMaundray Woolridge, nicknamed 'The Diesel,' who lit the scoreboard with four touchdowns.
Woolridge's first was a flashy 28-yarder to start the scoring on Idaho's first possession of the game. The next three were his trademark power runs (four, one and six yards) through the middle of the line.
"DeMaundray is a powerful back and he has been doing good things all season," Akey said. "It was a very good day for him and, while you attribute a lot of the success to him, certainly that offensive line deserves a lot of the credit as well."
Woolridge was the first to say so.
"They were team touchdowns," he said. "It was a team effort."
That applied to the defense, too, which came up big when it was most necessary. Junior Aaron Lavarias had two sacks, three quarterback hurries and forced a crucial Hawai'i fumble in the fourth quarter. JoJo Dickson recovered the loose ball with 7:16 to play and the Vandals ahead 28-17.
With the exception of an electrifying 36-yard Enderle-to-Max Komar hookup, which pulled Idaho out of a "third down and a long cab ride," according to Akey (also known as third and 25), the Vandals stayed on the ground and all but sealed the victory when Woolridge went in from six yards out. With one minute to play, Idaho led 35-17.
Hawai'i quarterback Bryant Moniz wasn't quite done. He moved the Warriors 78 yards in four plays. The PAT failed and Idaho still led 35-23 with :14 remaining. Hawai'i recovered the onside kick and went to the air again. This time, junior safety Shiloh Keo had his second game-ending interception in the Vandals' last three outings as Idaho secured No. 6.
"Being 6-1 means a whole lot," Akey said. "It means this team has done a lot of things a lot of people told them they couldn't do. It means we are another step closer to reaching some of the goals we set earlier in the year.
"What I appreciate most is the fact these guys have continued to work their tails off the entire we have been together."