MOSCOW, Idaho – A game that included hundreds of yards came down to a matter of inches. For Idaho’s Vandals, those inches translated to heartache as the University of Wyoming escaped the Kibbie Dome Saturday with a 40-37 overtime victory.
“It’s more painful,” said coach Robb Akey after the Vandals dropped to 0-4. “We’re talking about inches. Literally inches. You can pick your opportunity. It’s not just the last play of the game.”
The last play was when Wyoming’s Jalen Claiborne pulled in a 25-yard pass from Brett Smith on the Cowboys’ overtime possession. The Vandals had scored when it was their turn on Trey Farquhar’s 49-yard field goal – his third boot of the day, to set up Wyoming’s chance from the 25.
It was that kind of day for the Vandals, who fought the good fight in putting up 506 yards total offense (their most since October 2010), only to have the Cowboys respond with timely big plays. In particular, after three lost fumbles by the Vandals.
“They took advantage of some mistakes we made,” said senior receiver Mike Scott, who had eight catches for 79 yards. “It definitely hurts. It hurts us a little bit harder. It (the offensive numbers) looks and feels good but at the same time, that loss takes away from the joy of how good we look on paper.”
In by far the best offensive outing for the Vandals in more than a year, Idaho put up 306 yards passing and covered 203 yards on the ground with senior Ryan Bass’ 121 leading way. Quarterback Dominique Blackman completed 34 of 46 passes for the 306 yards and three touchdowns.
But both had turnovers that proved costly. Bass’ was on the Vandals first possession when the ball came loose at the Idaho 31 and the Cowboys scored on four plays to take the 7-0 lead. Blackman’s was at the start of the fourth quarter when he was trying to stretch the ball over the goal line only to have it pop loose into Ghaali Muhammad’s hands. Smith connected on an 80-yard pass to Chris McNeill to tie the game at 27 a time when the Vandals were hoping to go up by two scores.
“Now it’s inches – and in overtime,” said Akey, noting the progress the Vandals have made. “Know this – I’m not saying for one second that makes things OK. Because it doesn’t. We’re getting ourselves closer. We’re inches away. But that’s not good enough either.”
To go with the turnovers were a handful of penalties – five for 47 yards. But the timing often couldn’t have been worse.
“We had some self-inflicted things that hurt us today,” Akey said. “Hat’s off to Wyoming – they made one more play than we did.”
In addition to Bass’ 121 yards, James Baker had 75 on 10 carries, while Najee Lovett matched Scott’s eight catches with his totaling 73 yards. Defensively, Homer Mauga had nine total stops in addition to two tackles for loss, which includes one of the Vandals three sacks. QuayShawne Buckley had two sacks to figure into Idaho’s total six tackles for loss. Tracy Carter’s two pass breakups were a team best.