That was the general emotion at the Kibbie Dome and in the locker room after the Vandals lost their homecoming game 21-16 to Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.
“The morale in the locker room is pretty rough because we played well enough to win most of the time but couldn’t execute enough,” junior linebacker Tony Lashley said. The Vandal defense gave up only 297 yards to a Ragin’ Cajuns offense that had been averaging nearly 450 yards per game. They also recorded seven sacks against Louisiana quarterback Andre Nunez, who replaced starter Jordan Davis after the first drive.
The defense found ways to put pressure on the Cajuns all game. Senior linebacker Leonard Hazewood finished with 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. Lashley recorded 11 total tackles and a QB hit and freshman strong safety Jalen Hoover recorded five tackles and a momentum-shifting interception in the second quarter.
Both teams delivered on offense early. Idaho junior defensive lineman DJ Henderson lined up as a fullback and barreled into the end zone for his second touchdown on the season.
Louisiana-Lafayette would go on to score two more touchdowns, but Idaho would be unable to find the end zone for the rest of the game.
Idaho’s offense made three separate trips to the red zone but was only able to convert for a touchdown once. Even when the Vandals couldn’t convert, redshirt freshman kicker Cade Coffey was solid and converted all three of his field goal attempts on the day. He established a new career long in the fourth quarter with a 46-yard make.
“Obviously I’m happy with my performance,” Coffey said after the game. “There are still some things I need to work on but as a team we’re confident and moving in the right direction.”
Coffey, unfortunately, got plenty of work in outside of the field goal team as he had to make seven punts and ended up punting for more yards than the offense gained.
The offense was able to produce in spurts, but struggled to build a sustained momentum throughout the game.
Senior quarterback Matt Linehan had only 18 yards passing at halftime on three completions and 11 attempts, but recovered after halftime and put up 131 yards in the second half.
Junior running back Isaiah Saunders managed 82 all-purpose yards and senior wide receivers Jacob Sannon and Alfonso Onunwor both ended with at least 50 yards. Onunwor also nearly gave the Vandals the lead on what would be their final offensive play, but he was unable to hang on to Linehan’s heave to the end zone as he hit the ground.
Coach Paul Petrino said he shared his team’s optimism following the loss.
“They played all the way to the very end, we just didn’t quite execute well enough offensively,” Petrino said. “Everyone played their hearts out until the end and I think you can be super proud of that, but we’ve got to make some improvements to win games like these.”
The Vandals take on Appalachian State at 2 p.m. next Saturday in the Kibbie Dome.
Jonah Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jonahpbaker