| March 17, 2018

Opinion: A Nightmare in Missouri

October 21, 2017

The Idaho Vandals took a humiliating 68-14 loss to the Missouri Tigers, including a horrific first half that most Vandal fans would like to forget.

From the opening kickoff there had been murmurs that Idaho may have been able to do the improbable and pull out a win against an SEC team on the road, and after the first few minutes it seemed they may be in for a close game.

On the first play of the game Missouri quarterback Drew Lock threw an interception to Idaho defensive back Armond Hawkins. This led to good field position for the Vandals, and led to an early touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Linehan to Kaden Ellis to give the Vandals an early seven-point lead to begin the game.

It seemed as if Idaho was ready to battle against Missouri with both sides of the ball looking good early. Unfortunately, it was short lived.

After the opening interception, the Missouri Tigers went on an unanswered 34-point run against the Vandals. Missouri scored a total of 51 points in the first half, breaking the school record for most points in a half against an FBS team.

Watching this game, the team looked defeated by halftime. Even though the Vandals tried to spark some miraculous comeback at the beginning of the second half, it was clear this game was over after the first two quarters. The second half was useless to watch, it was just 30 minutes of watching the clock run out a game that got far and away from the Vandals early.

Now yes, the Vandals were playing a power five football team in the SEC conference, and yes, the Vandals were not the favorite to win this game, but the expectation was that Idaho would at least give Missouri a fight.

There was no fight though after the ten-minute mark in the first quarter. Idaho was just exposed on every part of the team from special teams to defense. The defense looked exhausted in the second quarter and Linehan was getting hit many times more than a quarterback should be getting hit throughout the game.

Hearing the ESPN commentators say how much Linehan was getting “banged up” for the tenth time in the broadcast got old throughout the game, because it is something that the Vandals have been dealing with all season, not anything new.

Some positive notes were that Idaho did control time of possession for most of the game. If fans looked at the stat sheet and saw Idaho controlled the clock, that usually means a good sign for the Vandals because that gives the defense more rest. In reality, Missouri scored a lot and moved up and down the field for the entirety of the game.

Idaho’s only highlight of the second half occurred during the last seconds of the fourth quarter when back-up quarterback Mason Petrino threw a touchdown pass to David Ungerer to give Idaho its only score of the second half. It was nice to see a connection between the two Pullman natives and see Idaho finish the game with another touchdown.

Slowly, week after week we have seen different issues and problems with this Idaho team, but while there was always something positive to pull out of games, this game it is hard to take away any positives with this loss.

This was the game where everything fans have complained about was highlighted on the field- the stagnant offense, slow starts and defense being on the field too long. Nothing made the Vandals look like anything more than a mediocre team.

From a statistics perspective, Missouri ended with 658 total yards on offense, compared to Idaho’s 278 total yards. Of the 658 yards, 475 of them were passing yards allowed by the nation’s sixth best pass defense.

The offensive line for the Vandals could not handle Missouri’s defensive line. This led to Linehan being hit a lot throughout the game, with the hits starting to pile up and tear down the quarterback in the third quarter.

In most games throughout the season the most reliable part of the team for the Vandals has been the ferocious play of the defense. Unfortunately, Missouri found a way to expose the middle of the field against the Vandal secondary. The defense improved in the second half, holding the Tigers to a few field goals inside the red zone.

This was one of the sloppiest Vandal games to watch, when anything that could have gone poorly for Idaho did, with the exception of the opening minute of the game. Maybe it was due to overconfidence on the road or simply just playing a bad game, but one thing for certain is that this may be Idaho’s most deflating loss of the season.

This game puts the Vandals on a three-game losing streak and a 2-5 record on the season, while also putting Idaho in a tricky situation for the rest of the season if they hope to gather a bowl berth.

What seemed like a promising game early on turned into a slaughter quickly for the Vandals. The question now is if and how the Vandals respond for the rest of the season, and if the offense can ever find consistent pass blocking within that offensive line. The defense is going to have to regroup and get back to the hard-hitting defense they have been if the team aims to start a late season surge to claim a bowl berth.

Chris Deremer can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu

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