MOSCOW, Idaho – It can be said that every close game comes down to one play. But which one? When was it?
For Idaho, there were plays scattered throughout the four quarters and two overtimes that the Vandals and Utah State Aggies played Saturday afternoon at the Kibbie Dome. The Aggies eventually prevailed, 49-42, in the drama that seemed never ending – particularly for Vandal fans who have watched their team fall by one score or less in five of their last seven games.
The second overtime ended on an interception of a Brian Reader pass by Bobby Wagner. That was one play the Vandals would like to have back. But there were two penalties in the final drive of regulation that pushed Idaho out of the reach of a field goal and a field goal that smacked the left upright of the goal post. There were big runs, big returns, big plays.
“Exciting,” said coach Robb Akey as he greeted the media after the game. “Terrible ending.”
The Vandals were driving at the end of regulation with the chance to take the lead in the waning seconds but first an unsportsmanlike conduct call then a hold pushed them back to the Utah State 43. After an Idaho punt, the Aggies took a knee to end regulation.
Idaho had the first overtime possession and scored when Korey Toomer, the Vandals’ short-yardage fullback but full-time linebacker, punched through from the two. Trey Farquhar’s kick was good for the 42-35 lead.
Utah State matched the TD on its first OT possession when Robert Turbin, who became the first back to go for more than 200 yards against the Vandals since October 2009 with his 208, scored from one-yard out to tie the game at 42.
The Aggies had the ball first to start the next overtime – and again it was Turbin, this time from two yards out.
The Vandals, thanks to a diving Daniel Micheletti catch and the effective legs of Kama Bailey, made it to the USU 2 when it was their turn in overtime. But a one-yard loss and a delay of game penalty pushed them back to Aggie 8 to set up the final pass.
“We were awful close to pulling that off,” Akey said. “It was an exciting football game but with an ending that wasn’t worth a darn. Those two teams played their hearts out out there.
“We needed to play a little better; make one more play.”
As painful as the loss was, there were highlights for the Vandals. One was Toomer, who scored more rushing touchdowns than any Vandal since DeMaundray Woolridge went for four against Hawai`i in 2009, with his three short-yardage bursts.
Senior safety Quin Ashley romped 78 yards to score on an interception and Bailey powered his way for 110 yards.
Defensively, senior linebacker Tre`Shawn Robinson was a one-man wrecking crew with 20 total tackles and one forced fumble. Ashley also reached double digits with 10 and junior safety Gary Walker had 12.
Still, the Vandals are left lamenting this one that got away.
“We were just one the wrong end of the shootout,” said quarterback Brian Reader, who had his best game of the year with 275 yards on 27 of 39 passing with his lone interception the final throw of the game.
“We came out. We fought hard,” Toomer said. “It hurt.”