What started as a rough game for the Vandal football team turned into a full team effort. Idaho scored its most points since 2003 and flew past New Mexico State for a 55-23 win.
Idaho (4-3 overall, 2-1 Sun Belt) began the game with an offensive misstep when junior quarterback Matt Linehan threw an interception at the New Mexico State 4 yard line. The Aggies capitalized on the turnover and scored a touchdown off a 68-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Rogers to receiver Izaiah Lottie. The Aggies failed to make the extra point but took a 6-0 lead.
“Today, we were rolling on all 11,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said. “It was fun calling plays today.”
Idaho answered the turnover with an 11-play drive, ending with a touchdown catch from senior tight end Deon Watson.
The Aggies responded with a touchdown from Rogers to receiver Clayton Granch from 10 yards out to going up 13-7.
Five seconds into the second quarter, freshman running back Denzal Brantley burst 4 yards into the end zone to give Idaho a one-point lead.
Sophomore linebacker Kaden Elliss and freshman safety Ty Graham teamed up during New Mexico State’s next drive to bring down running back Larry Rose III for a 12-yard loss.
A 20-yard catch by senior tight end Trent Cowan helped Idaho reach field goal range. Senior kicker Austin Rehkow’s 33-yard kick sailed through the uprights and put Idaho up 17-13.
The Vandal defense continued to swarm the Aggies. Senior safety D.J. Hampton forced a fumble. Junior cornerback Armond Hawkins recovered the fumble in Aggie territory.
Linehan capitalized with a 7-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Alfonso Onunwor.
Idaho and New Mexico State traded field goals to close out the half. When the teams left for the locker rooms, Idaho led 27-16.
Junior running back Aaron Duckworth found the end-zone after a 19-yard touchdown reception to extend Idaho’s lead in the third quarter.
Rogers did his best to keep the Aggies competitive, but two sacks by senior defensive lineman Tueni Lupeamanu and junior defensive end Kevin Shelton stalled the drive.
It took Idaho one play to find the end zone after the Aggies punted. Senior receiver Jordan Frysinger ripped off a 78-yard touchdown catch to put the Vandals up 41-16.
Teamwork from Linehan and Watson put Idaho back on the Aggie’s goal line. Sophomore tailback Isaiah Saunders punched the ball in for a yard, giving Idaho a 48-16 lead at the end of third quarter.
Elliss stopped the Aggies from advancing on fourth down. Linehan took the ball to the other end on a 10-yard touchdown run.
New Mexico State scored near the end of the fourth quarter, but could not salvage the game.
“We were staying confident in ourselves,” Linehan said. “It was confidence in every phase of the game.”
Linehan finished with 476 yards and four touchdowns.
He credited his numbers to help from his offensive line and receivers.
Idaho totaled 651 offensive yards. Watson, Onunwor, and Frysinger all had over 100 yards in receptions.
“They thought they were going to come in here and get after us and blow us out,” Petrino said. “We just kept fighting for four quarters and got after them.”
Idaho is two wins away from being bowl eligible at the end of the season. The Vandals’ quest for postseason play continues against Appalachian State Oct. 22 in North Carolina.
Brandon Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @brandonmtnhill