Idaho Vandals

Vandals’ body language more telling than any stat sheet

The distance that separates door from podium inside Idaho’s postgame interview room could be roughly estimated at 20 feet.

Tueni Lupeamanu usually covers that kind of ground in a matter of seconds, and with only a few elongated strides. Even if he does have to muscle his way through a wall of 300-pound behemoths, Idaho’s hard-charging defensive end generally finds a way.

Few in the Sun Belt Conference are better at putting their scope on a quarterback, creating a lane and pouncing.

But on Saturday, in the immediate wake of a 34-13 Sun Belt loss to Troy on homecoming, Lupeamanu couldn’t be bothered to muster his usual urgency when his name was called to the podium.

This stroll was a solemn one. Because Idaho’s loss was a sobering one.

Lupeamanu gave the podium all the time in the world. Enough to call an in-play audible. Enough to go through every read — two or three times even. Enough to grab a swig of water, wait a few moments, check the reads once again, and then, say, fling a 60-yard touchdown pass to John Johnson.

It was actually Troy’s Brandon Silvers who delivered the deep dagger to Johnson just moments into the second half, extending the Trojan lead to 28-6.

Not that a piece of furniture couldn’t have made the same throw, considering how generous UI’s defensive line was with its pressure and how courteous the UI defensive backs were with their coverage.

Yes, the Vandals had plenty to answer for after this one.

They were only seven days removed from an overtime win in Las Vegas, but seemingly left a few of their belongings behind as they hopped on a jet headed back to the Palouse.

No, not your everyday, overhead bin carry-ons. I’m speaking more along the lines of grit, courage and determination — the qualities UI displayed for the better part of five quarters during last week’s desert shootout.

“Being Vandal tough and getting after it, and competing and battling,” Petrino said.

In other words, things that never surfaced Saturday in the Kibbie Dome, where Idaho managed to mount a 6-0 advantage, then cede a 34-0 run to the visitors from Alabama.

What’s the saying? What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?

The Vandals collected an old-fashioned Sin City buzz and awoke one week later suffering from many of the same aftereffects felt by the characters in the Vegas-based film starring Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis.

Only “The Hangover” yielded a happy ending. UI’s homecoming game, for the first time under Petrino, certainly did not.

The Vandals charged with protecting junior quarterback Matt Linehan looked drowsy. The ones tasked with catching his passes looked restless.

Officially, the Trojans recorded four QB sacks on Linehan — an indication that the home statkeeper may have joined the UI players in their midgame snooze. On this day, you certainly needed more than one hand to count Linehan’s dates with the turf.

Idaho’s cover men evidently got their hands on the team sedative, too, allowing Silvers to roll up 373 passing yards and three touchdowns.

And there were missed tackles galore.

“We just didn’t get it done, bottom line,” Petrino said. “You can say it 8,000 different ways, probably the best way is to just say I didn’t get it done as the head coach.”

Not 8,000 ways, coach. Only 7,999.

“I didn’t get them ready to play well enough, and we didn’t execute good enough,” Petrino said. “If you want to blame it, blame it on me. That’s where it deserves to go.”

So it’s possible Lupeamanu took a cue from his head coach when he sauntered into the interview room a few minutes later to provide his take on the meltdown.

Before any of the reporters could move a lip muscle, the D-end interjected.

“No more questions, please,” Lupeamanu said with a smirk, before slumping into a chair and obliging to three minutes of media inquiries.

His body language told the story of this game far better than a box score ever could.