Nov. 19—MOSCOW — The No. 6 Idaho football team played its best game of the year against in-state and Big Sky Conference rival Idaho State on Saturday at the P1FCU Kibbie Dome.
By halftime, the Vandals had outgained the Bengals by more than 350 yards, had four takeaways, scored 56 points, a program record, and got a legendary performance from backup quarterback Jack Layne.
Layne, who played in relief of an injured Gevani McCoy, finished the first half 18-of-23 passing (78.3%) for 264 yards and six touchdowns, which tied a program record for the most TD passes in a single game.
By game's end, Layne, a redshirt freshman, was 20-of-26 passing for 275 yards as he led the Vandals to a 63-21 decision over the Bengals.
With the win, the Vandals should be in line to receive one of the first eight seeds in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs — and the bye week that comes with it.
"I'm really proud of our players, and I think our coaches had a great plan," Idaho coach Jason Eck said. "Credit to coach (Luke) Schleusner and the offensive staff and coach (Rob) Aurich and the defensive staff for really putting together a good plan against these guys."
Idaho's postseason will be determined today during the FCS playoff selection show at 9:30 a.m. (ESPNU).
Here's how it all went down:
McCoy was out warming up prior to kickoff, but the Idaho coaching staff elected to keep him on the sidelines.
Layne was dialed in from the start, leading Idaho on a 10-play, 63-yard drive to get on the board first.
The sequence was capped off by a 7-yard rushing score from sophomore Anthony Woods, his 14th of the season.
The Vandals' gunslinger had his guys on cruise control, putting Idaho in front 35-0 in less than 16 minutes of game action. By the time the Vandals were ahead 49-0 with 8:38 remaining in the first half, Layne was 13-of-15 passing for 222 yards and five touchdowns.
The Lake Oswego, Ore., native didn't slow down, conducting seven scoring drives, including three straight to start.
"I thought going into this year that Jack Layne was the best backup quarterback that I've ever been around," Eck said. "As far as a guy who really is smart, really works his tail off, and a guy we can really trust. Two years in a row, he's come big in the eleventh hour to lead us to a win in a big game."
The first of Layne's six touchdown passes was a memorable one, a 24-yard strike to Hayden Hatten between two Bengal defenders.
Layne put the ball where only the 6-foot-2 receiver could get it, and from there, Hatten did what he does best, making an aggressive catch.
"I think Jack threw a really nice catchable ball and gave guys a chance," Eck said. "You saw Hayden had a step on the guy, so he put it where he could go up and get it. And obviously, our whole team has a lot of trust in Hayden, so that's a great example of him allowing Hayden to go up and make that play. And Hayden has a knack for making those kinds of plays."
The inexperienced quarterback, who was making his second start, with his first being a 38-7 win against Idaho State on Nov. 19 of last year, found a special connection with fellow redshirt freshman, receiver Jordan Dwyer.
Dwyer finished with three receptions for 100 yards and a score.
Dwyer's TD reception was a 45-yard strike by Layne, who hit him perfectly in stride to put the Vandals in front 21-0 with 3:06 remaining in the first quarter.
"J.D and I came in together; that's my guy," Layne said. "He's a great route runner, man; he's really crafty. He knows when to put sauce on it; he's a craftsman, for sure."
Saturday's contest pitted the Bengals' top aerial attack against the Vandals' No. 1-ranked pass defense.
Idaho's secondary dominated that battle, coming away with four interceptions, limiting ISU to just 64 passing yards in the first half.
It was the first time the Vandals forced multiple turnovers since their 33-6 win over Nevada on Sept. 6.
"We knew they had been a little loose with turning the ball over," Eck said. "And we took advantage of that. I think we have a very good defense, but when we can create turnovers, now you start looking at a great defense."
Idaho's first takeaway came courtesy of safety Kyrin Beachem with 8:34 remaining in the first quarter off of receiver Christian Fredrickson.
The Bengals tried to get tricky early in the game, and Beachem made them pay for it.
Idaho also got two interceptions from freshman defensive back Dwayne McDougle.
"I just knew their quarterback was going to look wherever he goes," McDougle said. "He's just a one-look dude; if he looks there, he's going to go there. I was reading the quarterback during both of my picks, and that's how they came."
Seniors' final gasp
Although it was senior day for the Vandals, it was really the youth that stole the show, with the likes of Layne, McDougle and Dwyer all having solid outings. But several Idaho seniors were able to leave a mark during their final regular-season game at the Kibbie Dome.
Senior tight end Jack Schuster had an 18-yard TD reception, the first of his career, to put Idaho in front 63-14 late in the fourth quarter.
Another upperclassman who had a big night was Jermaine Jackson. Idaho's speedy receiver returned a punt 79 yards to the house to give it a 35-0 advantage.
The Oakland native was on the receiving end of Idaho's next score, an 18-yard grab, to put the Vandals in front 42-0 with 12:12 remaining in the second quarter. That was his first TD grab of the season.
Finally, Hatten had another prototypical night catching the ball, finishing with five receptions for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
Players of the game
Idaho quarterback Layne finished 20-of-26 passing for 275 yards and six touchdowns.
Redshirt freshman defensive back McDougle notched two interceptions.
Redshirt freshman receiver Dwyer finished with three receptions for 100 yards.
Plays of the game
Layne located receiver Hatten between two Idaho State defenders, where he made a Randy Moss-like catch for a 24-yard TD.
Layne located receiver Dwyer for a 45-yard TD pass. The redshirt freshman quarterback placed the pass right in Dwyer's bucket.
Layne connected with Hatten for an 11-yard score to put the Vandals in front 56-0 with 3:04 remaining in the first half. The TD pass tied Layne with several other players for the most touchdown passes in a single game.
Idaho State 0 0 7 14—21
Idaho 28 28 0 7—63
Idaho — Anthony Woods 7 run (Ricardo Chavez kick).
Idaho — Hayden Hatten 24 pass from Jack Layne (Chavez kick).
Idaho — Jordan Dwyer 45 pass from Layne (Chavez kick).
Idaho — Jermaine Jackson 79 punt return (Chavez kick)
Idaho — Jake Cox 3 pass from Layne (Chavez kick).
Idaho — Jackson 15 pass from Layne (Chavez kick).
Idaho — Woods 13 pass from Layne (Chavez kick).
Idaho — Hatten 11 pass from Layne (Chavez kick).
Idaho State — Christian Fredrickson 11 pass from Jackson Sharman (Thomas Kopcho kick).
Idaho State — Adam Watts 5 pass from Sharman (Kopcho kick).
Idaho — Jack Schuester 18 pass from Jack Wagner (Chavez kick)
Idaho State — Cyrus Wallace 28 pass from Matthew Cavallero (Kopcho kick).
RUSHING — Idaho, Woods 18-121, Wagner 3-42, Layne 9-42, Williams 6-29, Matheney 7-23, Jackson 1-18, Romano 2-3; Idaho State, Gasu 6-24, Sharman 4-22, Taylor 3-11, Cavallero 3-6, Hays 3-5, Cooke 2(-16).
PASSING — Idaho, Layne 20-26-0—275, Wagner 4-5-1—41; Idaho State, Sharman 11-21-1—124, Cook 5-9-1—64, Cavellero 4-5-0—66, Hays 1-3-1—0, Frederickson 0-1-1—0.
RECEIVING — Idaho, Dwyer 3-100, Hatten 5-74, Ivy 1-30, Woods 4-24, Hamper 3-23, Jackson 3-18, Schuester 1-18, Cox 2-16, Romano 2-13; Idaho State, James 10-145, Wallace 2-56, Fredrickson 2-23, Gasu 1-12, Duarte 2-10, Watts 4-8.
Pixley may be contacted at (208) 848-2290, email@example.com or on Twitter @TreebTalks.