Vandals disband the Wolf Pack

Sep. 10—Idaho sophomore quarterback Gevani McCoy connected with graduate transfer tight end TJ Ivy Jr. for a 75-yard score on the first play of scrimmage against Nevada at McKay Stadium on Saturday.

The play served as a message: the Vandals are for real.

No. 7 (FCS Stats Perform Poll) Idaho toppled its Football Bowl Subdivision opponent 33-6 while outgaining the Pack (0-2) by nearly 200 yards.

The Vandals (2-0) opened the second half by going on a five-play, 59-yard drive that was capped off by a 15-yard touchdown grab by redshirt sophomore tight end Alex Moore, the first of his career.

Moore's score put the Vandals ahead 24-6 and, in turn, put the game out of reach.

"I'm happy for us," Idaho coach Jason Eck said. "I thought our guys competed and believed. Our coaching staff put together a great plan, and I thought our defense defended them better than USC did."

The win ends Idaho's six-year skid to the FBS and the Vandals are 2-0 for the first time since 1998.

Here's how all of it went down:

Questions answered

Some of Idaho's most questionable position groups coming into the year were the defensive line and the linebackers. The Vandals are two games into their season, and both units have been standouts so far.

Idaho's front seven gave up 118 rushing yards on 18 attempts to the Pack throughout Saturday's contest. But in the second half, the group really shined, limiting Nevada to just 13 yards on six attempts.

With the Pack playing catch-up for most of the game, they were forced to throw the ball more than they would've liked. This allowed Idaho's pass rush to pin their ears back and go after the passer. This resulted in just one QB hurry, courtesy of Keyshawn James-Newby.

Even though the numbers didn't show up in the stat sheet, James-Newby and the Idaho pass rush were thorns in the side of Nevada's two quarterbacks for 60 minutes.

James-Newby applied pressure, which led to a Dylan Layne interception in the first quarter. Layne almost had an interception on the play prior after stepping in front of a AJ Bianco pass.

Redshirt junior linebacker Mathias Bertram finished with a team-high eight tackles. Bertram was familiar with McKay Stadium, having transferred from the Mountain West's New Mexico.

"I'm proud of Mathias," Eck said. "He came here from New Mexico, and he used to play in this league, and I think the last time he played, New Mexico lost something like 10 games. So, to come in and get a Mountain West win meant a lot to him."

McCoy still that dude

The defending Jerry Rice Award winner has picked up right where he left off to start the 2023 season. Against Nevada, he was a cool 15-of-21 (76%) through the air for 313 yards and two scores. And although Ivy did most of the work after the catch, McCoy's 75-yard touchdown pass to the Coastal Carolina transfer was the longest-scoring pass of his career.

"TJ is great," McCoy said. "He can do it all. He's a very physical run blocker that puts guys on their backs, and at the same time, he can catch and make plays in the open field. He's very dynamic for us."

McCoy was also able to unlock a part of his game on Saturday that he doesn't bring out too often — his ability to run the ball.

The Baldwin Hills, Calif., native had six carries for 47 yards, including a 40-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.

The trot would lead to Moore's 15-yard touchdown.

"I just want to tip my hat to Coach Heim and the strength program," McCoy said. "They did a great job with me all offseason, and I feel like I've progressed. I feel like I'm faster than I was last year, and I want to thank Coach Heim for sure."

Stepping up

It was hard to tell while watching the product on the field, but Idaho left Saturday's contest a little banged up.

Wide receiver Jermaine Jackson, safety Murvin Kenion and right tackle Charlie Vliem all left the field at some point. Jackson would eventually make his way back to the field, but even in his absence, several other skill players stepped up.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Dwyer had one reception for 30 yards, and Terez Traynor also pitched in two catches for 27 yards.

"We have a lot of playmakers," McCoy said. "We have so many guys and so many weapons, it's not even fair, honestly."

Eck also complimented Kryin Beachem, who stepped in during Kenion's absence. He finished with four tackles, including one for loss.

Still need to improve

Idaho's offensive line gave up three sacks and tallied just 150 yards rushing on 38 carries (3.8 per carry).

The Vandals' front five has been inconsistent, to say the least, throughout the first two games. The problem with the allowed pressures and sacks is that, more often than not, they come from a free rusher.

In the fourth quarter, Nevada's Stone Combs came through the middle of Idaho's offensive line untouched to bring McCoy to the ground.

"I thought the O-line played OK," Eck said. "We're going to have to look at the film to get a good look, but we only averaged 3.8 yards per rush, and I think we can play better."

Pixley may be contacted at (208) 848-2290, or on Twitter @TreebTalks