MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho’s “new” season started just the way the Vandals wanted – with the victory that puts them in a tie for the Western Athletic Conference lead, albeit one game into the conference season.
The Vandals did it by dispatching New Mexico State 26-18 before a Homecoming crowd at the Kibbie Dome with all three elements of the team making their presence felt. Possibly more than any other was kicker Trey Farquhar with field goals of 55, 53, 39 and 32 yards.
“All three phases of the game contributed,” coach Robb Akey said. “It was a more complete game. It was our football team’s best game – because we won.
“More than anything else in the world, I’m happy for that room full of players – those guys in there that have been working their tails off.”
The first play of the game, however, wasn’t what the Vandals wanted. Quarterback Dominique Blackman, who wound up with his third 300-plus game with 304 yards on 26-of-48 passing, threw his only interception of the game to give NMSU the ball at the Idaho 44.
Up stepped the defense to force a three-and-out and return the ball to the Vandals. Idaho stalled again, though, and it was the Aggies scoring first on Tyler Stamper’s 42-yard field goal on NMSU’s next possession. Farquhar knotted the game at 3 when he booted a 39-yarder on the Vandals’ next possession.
The Vandals took advantage of a muffed punt two series later. After Justin Parkins recovered the ball at the NMSU 35, Blackman found Najee Lovett past the defense and just a stride out of the end zone with a 35-yarder for Idaho’s first TD and a 10-3 lead with 2:37 left in the first.
Both teams added a touchdown in the second – Idaho’s was a 17-yard pass from Blackman to Jahrie Level, but what set the emotional tone for the Vandals as they headed into the locker room for the halftime break was Farquhar’s booming 55-yarder as time expired in the second quarter. The kick, the second-longest of Farquhar’s career, put the Vandals up 20-10.
“He’s accountable. I have great confidence in him,” Akey said.
As for Farquhar, who meet Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong Friday afternoon and was the recipient of a good luck rub of her gold medal on his kicking foot, he said he was “just doing my job.”
Farquhar accounted for all of the Vandals’ second-half scoring with a 32-yarder with 8:35 to go in the third and a 53-yarder with 1:55 to left in the third.
Blackman made use of nine receivers with Jahrie Level leading the way with eight for 92 yards and Mike Scott accounting for 78 yards on three catches. And kudos to the offensive line, which, for the second time this season, didn’t allow a sack.
Defensively, hard-hitting Gary Walker had 13 tackles along with two pass breakups, and Su`a Tuala added 12 tackles, which includes two of the Vandals’ seven tackles for loss. Homer Mauga and Tracy Carter each had one interception with Ryan Edwards joining Parkins in recovering a fumble.
“It’s been several months since we’ve been able to celebrate after a game,” Akey said. “I’m happy as could be for them.”