MOSCOW, Idaho – The Idaho Vandals, coach Paul Petrino said, improved by leaps and bounds over the past week – but it wasn’t enough to subdue two-time MAC champion Northern Illinois as the Vandals dropped to 0-3 after Saturday afternoon’s 45-35 loss to the Huskies.
“We showed great, great improvement,” Petrino said. “But I’m used to winning. I’m disappointed.”
The Vandals scored first on a James Baker run the after NIU scored to tie the game Idaho answered with back-to-back touchdowns – one by Richard Montgomery and another by Baker, to go up 21-7 as the second quarter opened. Josh McCain scored again for the Vandals in the second quarter but the Huskies added two more to close the gap to 28-21 at the half.
The Huskies pulled away with two third-quarter touchdowns and a TD and field goal in the fourth. Idaho did respond with a fourth-quarter run by Baker but never could quite regain its first-half momentum.
Petrino pointed to three lost fumbles as breaking the Vandals’ backs.
“That’s the difference,” he said. “If we don’t do that, we have a great chance to win. You can’t fumble three times against a good team and have a chance to win.”
Dezmon Epps led the receiving corps with eight catches for 106 yards, while Baker bulled his way for 73 yards on 19 carries. Chad Chalich was 14-of-25 for 236 yards passing, while McCain was one-for-one but with 39 rushing yards.
Bradley Njoku had nine tackles with Solomon Dixon tallying eight and Broc Westlake and Eric Tuipulotu each accounting for seven.