Idaho’s Akey praises team’s effort against Tigers
Not many coaches could express pride in their defense after losing by a 63-14 score. But not many games see 63 points put up quite the way LSU did Saturday night.
Two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Three scoring drives of less than 40 yards, and another from just across midfield. The final stats show LSU piled up 472 total yards to Idaho’s 213, but Vandals head coach Robb Akey thought his Western Athletic Conference team stood tall defensively until LSU’s superior size and speed exerted its will in the second half.
“I thought our kids responded to some things well early,” Akey said. “Honestly, two touchdowns were on plays that took a long time in man coverage, if I’m not mistaken. We got hurt there. The one-on-one plays are ones that kind of affected us throwing in the first half. We were able to do a little bit better stopping some of the running, and we got around the quarterback a little bit.”
Field position contributed mightily to LSU’s first two scores — taking over on downs at the LSU 46, with Zach Mettenberger finding Kadron Boone for a 17-yard strike, then the first of two interceptions by Ronald Martin off the fingertips of cornerback Jalen Collins. This one putting the Tigers in business at the Vandal 30, with Alfred Blue scoring six plays later from the 3.
But, instead of collapsing, the Idaho defense made things interesting, at least until the third quarter.
The Tigers were held to a three-and-out, and when Odell Beckham’s 11-yard punt return put LSU in business at the Vandal 32, free safety Gary Walker stepped in front of Mettenberger’s pass for Beckham at the 1-yard line and returned it 94 yards to the LSU 5, leading to Dominique Blackman’s 4-yard scoring pass to Michael LaGrone.
Walker said he had seen LSU run this particular pattern from this formation when watching film. His only surprise was, having gotten past Mettenberger down the left sideline, that Beckham ran him down from behind.
“That was a fast guy,” Walker said. “I was hoping and praying I was going to get to the end zone, but that guy made a nice play.”
The interception did more than allow Idaho to dent the scoreboard.
“I think it gave guys an opportunity to be, like, ‘They’re human, and we can step up and make plays. It doesn’t matter what their ranking is or who they are. We can just buckle down and play 100 percent and worry about what we’re doing, and anything is able to happen. I think that kind of gave guys more motivation and heart,’” Walker said.
Idaho forced another LSU punt and, after Martin took his second interception 45 yards for a score, the Vandals had their only sustained march of the game, going 80 yards, with Jahrie Level scoring on a 22-yard strike from Blackman (23-of-36, 174 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs).
LSU got stuffed again when rover Benson Mayowa sacked Mettenberger twice to force yet another punt to the Idaho 12.
That, however, led to another favorable field position when Idaho moved backwards 10 yards — three consecutive false-start penalties in front of the roaring LSU student section contributed to that — and Beckham’s 11-yard punt return put the Tigers in business at the Vandal 39. It took just three plays for Mettenberger to find Jarvis Landry from 7 yards out for a 28-14 halftime lead.
The Vandals stopped LSU again to start the third quarter, but when LSU’s Lavar Edwards intercepted Blackman and took it 23 yards for the score, the air went out of Idaho’s balloon. On the Tigers’ next possession, Kenny Hilliard went 71 yards to the end zone on the first play, and all doubt about the outcome was removed.
“Obviously, we got in a situation where their size and mass, it overcame us,” Akey said.
“That’s a damn good football team that I saw across the sideline out there on that field. Those guys are damn good. … When we go back, we’re going to compete against the WAC conference, those guys (LSU) ain’t in the WAC. Ain’t nobody in the WAC like those guys. If we compete against those guys for half of a game, we can go beat people who are more like us if we go play that way.”