Year Two of the restored College of Idaho football program followed a familiar formula—a little purple magic and a big upset victory.
Click here to check out a photo gallery from the game.
For the second year in a row, the Yotes are off to a winning start. They did it by stunning No. 13 Eastern Oregon, 40-28, in front of 5,200 delirious, purple-clad fans Saturday at Simplot Stadium in Caldwell.
Caldwell native J.J. Hyde scored three rushing touchdowns as a bruising red zone specialist and senior quarterback Teejay Gordon tossed two touchdown passes for the Yotes, who never trailed.
“A little bit of magic,” C of I coach Mike Moroski said. “Actually, we were so fundamentally superior to where we were last year. That’s a very good Eastern Oregon team, but I could tell from the first couple of series that we were going to match up with them a lot better than we did last year.”
EOU controlled both matchups between the teams last season, but this meeting had a different feel from the outset. Hyde, a redshirt freshman who attended nearby Vallivue High School, opened the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, plowing through multiple defenders on his way to the end zone.
He added a 9-yard scoring run early in the second quarter, and the Yotes were off and running.
“It was unbelievable,” said Hyde, who finished with 85 yards rushing on 13 carries. “I didn’t expect to play that much, but it was great to get in there and help the team. I had so much family here today that I had a hard time getting tickets for everyone.
“This was the best experience I’ve ever had playing football.”
Gordon—who threw for 151 yards and ran for 57—found All-Conference tight end Marcus Lenhardt down the seam for a 14-yard touchdown as the C of I carried a 20-14 lead into the halftime locker room. The senior QB struck again early in the third quarter, lofting a perfect 43-yard bomb to find junior Tyler Higby streaking down the sideline.
“We’ve been preparing really hard, and we just came out and executed today on all sides of the ball,” Gordon said. “We’ve always had confidence, but this year we have more experience, and the guys know what it takes to win.”
The Mountaineers kept the score close, but the Yotes maintained their lead thanks to a methodical, ball control offense and a playmaking, opportunistic defense. Senior tailback Kyle Merrit capped a 104-yard day with a 14-yard score late in the third quarter, and Hyde completed his TD hat trick on a 5-yard rumble with 3:43 remaining as the C of I closed it out.
The Yotes finished with a 419-321 advantage in total yards and forced three turnovers—fumble recoveries by Cory Brady and B.J. Newman and a diving interception in the end zone by cornerback Nate Moore.
Purple Fever returns to Simplot Stadium next Saturday as the Yotes host Pacific University at 1 p.m. Tailgating opens at 8 a.m. in the J.A. Albertson Activities Center parking lot. For tickets and information, visit www.yoteathletics.com.
Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. The C of I has a legacy of academic excellence, a winning athletics tradition and a history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.