Football: A Delayed Thriller in South Alabama

The Idaho Vandals put the pieces together to escape South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama with a 29-23 double overtime win in the Sun Belt Conference opener.

This game ended the Vandals’ two game losing streak, putting them at a 2-2 record on the season.

The game did not start out well. Junior running back Isaiah Saunders fumbled on the first drive of the game, leading to an early first quarter touchdown for South Alabama.

After stalled drives from early offensive mistakes by the Vandals, freshman defensive back Christian Elliss came up with a 31-yard interception return in the second quarter to bring Idaho inside South Alabama’s 10-yard line. This led to a two-play drive ender with a six-yard run from senior running back Aaron Duckworth, as he shed off two Jaguar tacklers to tie the game 10-10 heading into halftime.

After a lightning delay in the middle of the fourth quarter and a score of 13-13, South Alabama running back Xavier Johnson broke off for a 34-yard rushing touchdown to make the game 20-13.

Senior quarterback Matt Linehan led a late fourth quarter drive with no timeouts left, finishing with a back corner strike to senior wide receiver Alfonso Onunwor to send the game into overtime at 20-20.

The Idaho defense came up with big stops during the overtime period after allowing 226 rushing yards to South Alabama in regulation. The defense stopped the running game in second overtime on a big third down, leading South Alabama to miss a field goal putting Idaho in position to come out with a win.

Then came another 30-minute weather delay. The Vandals came out ready to finish after the delay with Saunders breaking out for a 22-yard run to get to South Alabama’s two-yard line. The play that followed was a two-yard touchdown run by Saunders to finish the game and come out with the victory.

Despite being a game with rough playing conditions, senior quarterback Matt Linehan said in a news release how big a victory this was for the Vandals.

“To come up with a win like this under these circumstances is huge for us as a team,” Linehan said. “It’s something we can build on going forward. The adversity we had to deal with, the delay, being down in the fourth quarter, another delay and come back in overtime and win the game is huge for us. Our team should have all the confidence in the world right now, knowing we can go out and get a win when we need to.”

Linehan finished the day with 273 passing yards, one touchdown and  27 rushing yards.

Onunwor finished the game with eight receptions for 119 receiving yards and a touchdown. Senior wide receiver Jacob Sannon ended with ten receptions for 103 yards receiving.

Duckworth finished the game with 56 yards rushing on nine attempts and one touchdown, but was sidelined in the second quarter and did not return until after the first lightning delay.

Junior running back Isaiah Saunders finished the game rushing for 63 yards on 18 attempts, and scored the game winning touchdown in the second overtime.

Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said in a news release how proud he is of his team after pulling out the win.

“I’m so proud of our players and our assistant coaches and happy for all of them,” Petrino said. “A game like that comes down to toughness. Our guys kept fighting and kept fighting. It’s one of the best wins we’ve had on the road since I’ve been here.”

After a Saturday filled with strange moments and a huge win in Mobile, the Vandals look to get some rest heading into their bye week.

Idaho looks to pick things up on Oct. 7 back at the Kibbie Dome to face off against Louisiana-Lafayette during Homecoming weekend.

Chris Deremer can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu


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