Idaho football dominated the Mountaineers of Appalachian State for over half of the game on Saturday in the Kibbie Dome, but, in an unprecedented manner, the Mountaineers came all the way back from down 20-0 to snatch a 23-20 win.
A game in which the Vandals were only given a 22 percent chance to win by ESPN, Idaho (2-4, 1-2 Sun Belt) held the lead for about three and a half quarters. Appalachian State (4-2, 3-0 Sun Belt) regained momentum in the third quarter and scored 23 unanswered points. The Mountaineers have not lost to an unranked team in their last 38 games.
Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said his team’s struggled in finishing and blamed himself for the loss.
“Our guys came out and battled their hearts out for the first half, and the first five minutes of the second half,” Petrino said. “We just didn’t play good enough. Bottom line. We didn’t coach good enough, we didn’t play good enough and that’s on me. I’m the head coach so that’s my fault. I needed to figure out a way to make a couple more things happen. That’s two weeks in a row we’ve lost a game right at the end.”
The Vandals’ top rated passing and sacking defense in the Sun Belt Conference continued to prove itself early, putting the ball in Linehan’s hands often.
The Mountaineers’ Jalin Moore, the Sun Belt’s reigning player of the week, could not seem to find any running room, often meeting the nose of Idaho’s senior defensive tackle Arie Anderson or junior linebacker Tony Lashley. Moore finished the game with under 60 yards rushing.
Idaho’s offense came out with an unprecedented attitude, picking up chunk plays at will.
Linehan found senior wide receiver Reuben Mwehla for a 47-yard catch and run in the first, but the drive stalled after a penalty and missed field goal by freshman kicker Cade Coffey.
In what seemed to be the turn of momentum Idaho needed, senior safety Armond Hawkins stripped the ball away from App receiver Malik Williams and recovered the fumble. Coffey converted on a 28-yarder to give Idaho a 3-0 lead.
Linehan picked apart the Mountaineer defense on the next drive, finding senior wide receiver Alfonso Onunwor three times on the drive— once for a 36-yard drive sparker, again seven plays later for a 20-yard touchdown over the middle to cap off an eight-play and an 80-yard drive that took just about two and a half minutes.
After another defensive stand, the Vandals marched down the field, again capping off a long drive with a touchdown pass, this time to a wide-open tight-end Joe Wysocki with just a few ticks on the clock before half.
Linehan impressed in the first half, completing 12 of 19 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Senior running back Aaron Duckworth ran for over 10 yards seemingly at will, finishing the half with 97 yards on 15 touches.
Idaho outgained App in yardage, 255 to 74, and held the ball for nearly eight more minutes than the Mountaineers. App State only converted four first downs in the first half.
App State quarterback Taylor Lamb was picked off on the first play of the third quarter by sophomore cornerback Sedrick Thomas. An Idaho drive that started at the Mountaineer 26-yard line dropped off however and Idaho settled for another short Coffey field goal.
Appalachian State flipped a 180 on both sides of the ball, evidently finding its footing.
Wide receiver Ike Lewis caught a ball one-handed and streaked in for a touchdown seven minutes in. After another stagnated Vandal drive, Lamb nickel and dimed his offense down the field, finishing with a six-yard touchdown pass to tight-end Collin Reed.
Lewis caught another scoring pass five minutes into the fourth, this time on a wide open post-route for 45 yards to knot up the game.
Duckworth was stripped on the first play of the ensuing drive, and App State took a 23-20 lead after getting the ball in scoring range.
Idaho’s next drive stalled just as was the case throughout the majority of the second half. After a 69-yard punt by Coffey pinned App St. at the one-yard line, Idaho was granted another chance. Linehan fumbled the ball on the 18-yard line after an 11-yard App State punt. After Idaho reclaimed the ball once again, he was sacked twice in three plays. A last-ditch effort at a first down was stopped one-yard shy, as Mwehla could not quite reach the marker.
Although Idaho outgained App State 312 yards to 276, the Vandals committed seven penalties compared to none from the Mountaineers, mostly on detrimental holding calls. Idaho also had two fumbles in key moments.
Linehan appeared as if he had reclaimed his title as a prospect, but he did not get the help he needed in the second half, finishing 15-28 with 200 yards and two touchdowns. Duckworth ran for 124 yards and Onunwor caught six balls for 85 yards and a score.
On defense, Idaho was strong throughout. Junior linebacker Tony Lashley finished with 16 tackles, 3.5 for loss.
For the Mountaineers, Lamb went 19-26 for 155 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. Lamb only threw for 27 yards in the first half, but went on a tear in the second, picking up chunk plays at will.
The Vandals will face the Missouri Tigers of the SEC 9 a.m. Saturday in Columbia, Missouri.
Colton Clark can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @coltonclark95