BOISE, Idaho - Senior receiver Max Komar made just one catch in the final game of his four-year Idaho career, but he saved the best for last, as his lone reception set the stage for one of the most dramatic finishes in Idaho football history and secured for the Vandals the Humanitarian Bowl Championship in just the third season under coach Robb Akey.
Komar's touchdown brought Idaho within one at 42-41 with four seconds remaining and Akey and Co. elected to go for the two-point conversion. After the teams exchanged timeouts, Vandal quarterback Nate Enderle found sophomore Preston Davis wide open in the back of the end zone for the deciding two points.
"We had some success with our offense," Akey said in explaining his decision to go for two with just four seconds on the clock and
the bowl title on the line. "There was some pretty good momentum on our side. You have to go with the flow of the way things are going and I felt that was our opportunity.
"Our players had confidence in the play and when they have confidence in it, they're going to make it."
The conversion capped off a three-play, 66-yard drive that included a 50-yard bomb from Enderle to Davis to get the Vandals down to the BGSU 16-yard line, and Komar caught his touchdown pass two plays later.
It also capped off a season few outside the Vandal football team expected. Picked last in most preseason polls, Idaho's bowl title comes with an 8-5 record in a most remarkable season.
"It's due to the hard work of these guys right here," said Akey, who, by a vote of the team captains, carried the Vandals' battle ax onto the field to start the game, as he gestured to the players next to him. "I couldn't be more proud of the group of kids. To take us from where we were - three wins in two years to get us to this point right now. To be a bowl champion.
"That says a lot for the determination, the hard work and the perseverance of these guys right here."
If that wasn't enough, Idaho found itself in the seven-point hole after BGSU's Freddie Barnes, who set a Humanitarian Bowl record with 17 catches for 219 yards and three scores and earned Bowling Green's bowl MVP honors, caught a 51-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds remaining to put the Falcons ahead and helped erase a 14-point Idaho lead.
Senior running back DeMaundray Woolridge lived up to his 'Diesel' nickname by bulldozing, smashing and dragging would-be tacklers for 126 yards and scoring two touchdowns. He was rewarded in his final game with the Humanitarian Bowl MVP honor for Idaho.
Enderle overcame a slow start to throw for 240 yards and four touchdowns on 15-of-28 passing, while Davis caught four passes for 119 yards and one score. Junior Maurice Shaw also came up big with four catches for 61 yards. Peter Bjorvik and Eric Greenwood also grabbed receiving scores for the Vandals.
After most of the pre-game notes and stories focused on the predicted offensive shootout, the other facets of the team came up just as huge as the offense. Junior JoJo Dickson blocked a 25-yard BGSU field goal in the first quarter and senior Jeromy Jones came up with a pair of big plays in his final game.
Jones stuffed BGSU's Jimmy Scheidler on a fourth-and-2 attempt in the second quarter, then picked off a Tyler Sheehan pass that set up Woolridge's second touchdown in the third quarter. Junior defensive end Aaron Lavarias also put constant pressure on Sheehan for most of the game before leaving in the fourth quarter with an injury.
With the win, Idaho moves to 2-0 all-time in bowl games, takes its second Humanitarian Bowl title and caps off an 8-5 season that started with predictions of last-place finishes and skepticism about Akey's bold predictions of success.
After the game, a large portion of the 26,276 fans in attendance stormed the field to celebrate with the Vandals.
Idaho started and finished the first half strongly, but had a bit of difficulty in between. The Idaho offense had trouble consistently moving the ball, while the defense alternately gave up some big plays and came up with a few of their own.
After BGSU took advantage of a short field on its opening drive to score on a 35-yard pass from Sheehan to Barnes, Idaho responded. On the ensuing drive, the Vandals marched down the field with seven straight rushes for 74 yards before capping off the drive with a three-yard, play-action hookup from Enderle to Bjorvik.
Dickson ended Bowling Green's following drive by blocking its 25-yard field goal attempt. The next three possessions, two by Idaho and one by BGSU, resulted in three-and-outs before BGSU's Willie Geter broke off a 59-yard scoring run to put the Falcons up 14-7 with 19 seconds remaining in the first.
Idaho's second big defensive play came on fourth and two from the Idaho 34, when the Falcons elected to go for it instead of attempting a long field goal. BGSU tried a shuffle pass from Barnes to tight end Jimmy Scheidler from the "Wildcat" formation, but Jones stuffed him short after a one-yard gain.
The Vandals closed out their first half with a 65-yard drive, again using a strong running game, mixed with a circus catch from Preston Davis before scoring at the 0:19 mark on a seven-yard fade from Enderle to Eric Greenwood to knot the game up at 14. Michael Cosgrove ended the half by sacking Sheehan on BGSU's first play after the kickoff.
"This football team has overcome a lot in the course of the season," Akey said. "They believe they can make it happen."