POCATELLO – The Idaho State football team survived its season-opener, beating Western Oregon, 37-6, after trailing 6-3 at halftime.
Idaho State, (1-0) who finished the game by scoring 37 unanswered points, didn’t take the lead on its Division II foe until the 6:19 mark of the third quarter when tight end Jake Johnson caught a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tanner Gueller in the back of the end zone.
“I was going down to Ace Hardware to get a for sale sign,” said head coach Rob Phenicie who made his head coaching debut. “We never flinched. We never gave up and we stuck to our plan.”
The go-ahead touchdown came off an Adkin Aguirre interception that set the Bengal offense up at the Wolves 42-yardline. Aguirre read and jumped the route run by Western Oregon’s Division II All-American, Paul Revis, who finished the game with 13 catches for 137 yards, 89 of which came in the first-half.
“That was a game-changer,” said running back Ty Flanagan.
The defense gave up a field goal on the opening drive of the game and surrendered another field goal in the second quarter off an Idaho State turnover, keeping the Wolves out of the end zone for the duration of the night, despite Western Oregon’s (0-1) four redzone appearances.
“Huge,” Phenicie said on the redzone stops. “Our defense did a great job of stopping them in the redzone.”
For the Idaho State offense, it was a tail of two halves.
The Bengals ran 27 offensive plays in the first-half, were one-of-six on third-down and totaled nine-minutes and 52 seconds in time of possession. Western Oregon, on the other hand, ran 45 plays, was five-of-11 on third-downs and totaled 20-minutes and eight seconds in time possession.
“We put them in the worst possession possible,” Phenicie said. “We lost the field position battle.”
After going seven-for-13 for 87 passing yards and an interception in the first-half, Gueller finished the night 13-for-16 for 202 yards, throwing three touchdowns and one interception.
“He was sailing balls,” Phenicie said on Gueller’s first-half performance. “First game jitters. I’m not saying he played bad, it is just he wants this thing to go so bad that he was pressing, pressing, pressing and we settled him down and Troxel got him going.”
After the Aguirre interception, the Bengals took control of the game and cashed in on Western Oregon mistakes the rest of the way.
“We went back to our day one install,” Phenicie said.
Gueller found tight end Austin Campbell on the next offensive possession for a 71-yard score to give Idaho State a 16-6 lead in the third quarter. Flanagan then shut the door on a potential upset with a 20-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
The Flanagan score came after a Western Oregon 15-yard penalty for blocking a player out of bounds on a play where Idaho State failed to pick up a fourth-down off a fake punt that would have given the Wolves the ball at mid-field.
The Bengals added a second touchdown moments later when a bad snap off a punt set the Bengals up at the Wolves three yard-line. Running back Kieran Yancy finished the job this time in with a three-yard touchdown on the next play. The Bengals added a final touchdown late in the four-quarter to polish off the win.
“Winning is never easy,” Phenicie said. “It took us a while for us to get under our feet.”
The Bengals will travel to Utah State next Thursday who plays at Wisconsin Friday night.