MOSCOW, Idaho — Wounds and self-inflicted injuries were in the spotlight again in Northern Colorado’s loss to Idaho on Saturday night.
UNC (2-3, 1-1 Big Sky) lost to the Vandals, 55-35, at the Kibbie Dome in its second conference game of the season.
He was down just three points midway through the third quarter, but two interceptions and defensive struggles created a more lopsided result late in the game.
“It was a very noisy indoor environment. We faced a very talented football team. I thought we traded blows with them for three quarters; extremely proud of our offense and the way we fought back and put points on the board,” UNC coach Ed McCaffrey said. “At one point we cut it down to 31-28 and were still right in the game. Unfortunately, their offense is really on a roll today. We had a hard time stopping them.
Northern Colorado allowed a touchdown on the first drive, which included passes for 48 and 26 yards. The Bears responded on the next drive, scoring a 14-yard touchdown from sophomore running back David Afari.
First-year kicker Hunter Green’s extra point was blocked and lowered the Bears by one point.
Both teams went back and forth throughout the game, with UNC even taking the lead for a time in the second quarter. There were times when Idaho gave up important first downs that the Bears capitalized on.
“Something similar happened last week. They caught us a couple times, and I thought we’d regroup and maybe create a takeout, make a few stops,” McCaffrey said. Our offense was feeling pretty good so at that point I still felt confident that we could score points. Those saves never came and the takeaways never happened. It turned into a little shootout and we couldn’t stop them. They had a few saves and that was really the difference in the game.
The Vandals recorded two turnovers in the second that they converted into points. These took the game from a 17-point game to almost 30.
UNC scored again with less than a minute remaining, but the damage was done.
McCaffrey said there were a number of players who didn’t play, or played limited minutes, due to injuries. Senior defensive lineman Brooks Talkington, freshman defensive lineman Joe Brown and junior linebacker Elias Rantissi were among the players who didn’t start or went out of the game. Additionally, the team is still missing junior David Hoage.
“Sometimes when you’re really thin in certain places, by the time the fourth quarter comes around, your guys are exhausted,” McCaffrey said. “I think we’ll get some guys back (next week), we’ll have a better rotation, keep the guys fresher and hopefully make more plays.”
Penalties were also an issue again. Despite giving up 32 yards, the second-fewest this season, they often came at inopportune times. These, along with interceptions, significantly affected the momentum.
Graduate running back Elijah Dotson finished with 49 receiving yards and 77 rushing yards, scoring twice. Graduate quarterback Dylan McCaffrey threw for 264 yards, his longest pass being 40 yards. He made some good plays early on, throwing great passes under pressure and out of the pocket, but things got away from him and the team as a whole.
Dotson said he doesn’t think Idaho is necessarily exploiting weaknesses. The team rather gave good opportunities.
“We have a team that knows how to fight,” Dotson said. “We have a team that doesn’t know how to give up, so we’re always going to keep playing football. It’s just instilled in us. We just have to make sure we execute. It’s hard to touch everything, but it’s must be executed.
UNC will play Sacramento State next week. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.