Click here to view more than 150 photos from the C of I home opener.
The ball hung in the air—and the game in the balance—as a capacity crowd of nearly 5,000 held its collective breath.
College of Idaho cornerback Nate Moore got a hand on the pigskin, sending the ball to the turf and setting off purple-clad pandemonium inside Simplot Stadium.
The College of Idaho 31, Montana Western 28. The second thrilling victory in as many weeks for a Coyote program making its return to the gridiron after a 37-year hiatus.
“Pretty darn good,” C of I coach Mike Moroski said. “I don’t think anybody really expected this. I’m just so happy for the alumni, the locals—people who remember when football was here. It’s a big day for those people. And our students, they were into it the whole game. It was fantastic.”
Moore’s deflected pass on fourth down capped a stellar day for the C of I defense. The Coyotes forced five turnovers, including four interceptions of Montana Western quarterback Tyler Hulse. Freshman safety Cory Brady (Bishop Kelly High, Boise) had three of those interceptions, getting his hands on a trio of deflected passes. Brady also tied for the team lead with seven tackles.
“There was no way in a million years I thought this game would end up like that for me,” Brady said. “Honestly, I’m happier that we got the win today, happy we are 2-0. Those tipped balls, I’m just blessed and lucky. Whenever the ball is in the air, I want that ball and I’m going to go get it.”
Offensively, the Coyotes were led by junior quarterback Teejay Gordon, who finished with 219 yards passing and a touchdown to go with 59 yards and two TDs on the ground. The sledding was tougher than it was in the Coyotes’ season-opening win at Pacific, but Gordon once again played smart, turnover-free football to lead the Yotes to victory.
“He’s special,” Moroski said. “He’s unnerving for the defense. They’ve got everybody covered and he’s running around back there. He’s just a dynamic guy.”
UMW opened the scoring, but Gordon’s 5-yard run tied things up late in the second quarter. The Bulldogs answered just before the half to take a 14-7 lead into the locker room.
The teams scored two touchdowns each during a wild third quarter, with Gordon scoring from three yards out and then hitting freshman receiver Austin Diffey (Eagle High) on a 22-yard TD strike as the Coyotes stayed within a touchdown (28-21) heading into the fourth quarter.
Bruising tailback Kyle Merritt tied the game on a 7-yard run with 13:20 remaining and, after Brady’s second interception, freshman kicker Luke Taylor booted a 22-yard field goal to give the Yotes their first lead with 7:22 to play.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Taylor said. “The Yotes’ first home game in 37 years, and to kick the game winner, I can’t even describe it.”
Taylor’s field goal providing the winning margin, but the defense had to seal the deal. Brady grabbed his third interception to thwart UMW’s penultimate drive and, despite having good field position on their last possession, the Bulldogs couldn’t get into field goal range against the C of I secondary. Hulse threw four straight incompletions, the last of which was knocked away by Moore.
Gordon ran three kneel-down plays to kill the clock and the student section rushed the field to celebrate as 4,971 purple-wearing supporters roared their approval.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Brady said. “We’ve had so many practices where those stands have been empty. I couldn’t ever imagine it being full. Today it was full. It was amazing being able to win for them today.”
Diffey finished with four catches for 97 yards, while freshman tight end Marcus Lenhardt (Eagle High) added five catches for 72 yards. Brock Hulsey had an interception and freshman linebacker Jordan Vielma (Idaho Falls High) recovered a fumble for the Yotes.
The C of I (2-0, 1-0 Frontier Conference) travel to Southern Oregon for a 1 p.m. game next Saturday.