There’s little doubt Jason Eck would be the life of the party in Vegas.
In his first year of head coaching duties, the Idaho skipper has shown a tendency to roll the dice in pivotal moments—including a surprise onside kick in last weekend’s matchup with third-ranked Montana that completely swung the momentum during his team’s upset win.
Eck had yet another card up his sleeve during Saturday’s showdown with Portland State at the Kibbie Dome. With the game knotted at 21-21 entering halftime and his squad needing a spark to fend off the pesky Vikings, he dialed up his own take on the infamous “Philly Special” of Super Bowl LII.
Idaho was just inside the red zone on the opening drive of the third quarter when redshirt freshman quarterback Gevani McCoy took a shotgun snap and handed the ball off to Elisha Cummings on what initially appeared to be a draw play. The sophomore tailback took several steps toward the right sideline before pivoting and lofting a pass over a charging defensive end on his left.
The ball floated into the outstretched arms of McCoy, who then shimmied his way between Ezriel Vasquez and Broderick Harrell on his way to the end zone. The trick play proved to be just the spark the Vandals needed, as the team took its first lead of the game and exploded for 35 points in the second half en route to a 56-21 victory.
Idaho improved to 5-2 with the win and 4-0 against Big Sky opponents, while Portland State fell to 2-5 on the year and 1-3 in conference play.
“They are running on the Eck train,” Portland State head coach Bruce Barnum said of the Vandals in a pre-game interview. “That’s a fun group to watch.”
To be fair, there were plenty of other highlight plays from Saturday. Wideout Hayden Hatten added to his recent hot streak with an acrobatic one-handed score in the third quarter, while McCoy tallied 248 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Although junior Aundre Carter rattled off a bruising 83-yard run in the fourth quarter, it was freshman Anthony Woods who ultimately led the Idaho backfield with 139 yards and a score on 15 carries.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Vandals limited the methodical Viking ground game to just 128 yards on 40 rushing attempts. Redshirt senior Leo Tamba finished the day with a pair of sacks, while linebacker Tommy McCormick led the team with 12 tackles and snagged an interception for the second straight week.
But once again, it was a gutsy call in the third quarter that proved to be a key turning point in the matchup. Although the trick play may not have the same lore as its Philadelphia counterpart, it accomplished its intended goal of swinging the pendulum of momentum back in Idaho’s favor.
Who knows, maybe we’ll even see the “Moscow Special” as the next Mac of the Week at the Grub Truck—I’ll take my order with extra onions and peppers.