The Vandals closed out the season with a 24-10 win Saturday over Georgia State.
Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said the victory was more than just another talley in the win column.
“It was great for the seniors. They’re bunch of great guys that give a lot to this program. I’m super happy for them to go out on this note, and proud for all their teammates that made sure they got to have their last game as a Vandal with a win,” Petrino said.
The Panthers (6-5, SBC 5-3) took charge in the opening minutes and scored on their first drive, running the ball 57 yards in four plays.
Idaho (4-8, SBC 3-5) immediately responded with freshman quarterback Colton Richardson making his first start of the season. Richardson moved the Vandals 75 yards in five short plays on the second drive of the game answering to the Panthers early scoring drive. Richardson was 4-for-4 for 74 yards in the drive right before senior running back Aaron Duckworth dove in from a yard out for the score.
Richardson, who finished the game 16-of-30 for 228 yards and a touchdown, lobbed the ball to senior wide receiver Alfonso Onunwor on the next Vandal possesion to score in the second quarter putting the Vandals on top 14-7. The Vandals did not trail again.
Onunwor caught another quick pass dangerously close to the sidelines and outran the Panthers defense for a 65-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. This would go in the books as the longest scoring play for the Vandals this season.
Duckworth rushed for 113 yards in his last collegiate game. Duckworth made two huge runs on back-to-back plays later in the third quarter to set the stage for Idaho to claim the win. His 16-yard carry followed by a 44-yard run put Idaho on the doorstop of a final victory. Duckworth also went over 1,000 rushing yards making himself the 10th Vandal in history to reach this milestone.
Junior linebacker Tony Lashley led the defensive effort with a career-high-tying 16 tackles. Lashley reached 16 tackles three other times during the season, including each in the last two games. He finished the season with 123 tackles, the most by a Vandal since 2007.
Junior running back Isaiah Saunders scored from two yards out on the second play in the fourth quarter to give Idaho the final 24-10 lead. Saunders finished with 61 yards on 14 carries along with his second score of the season.
Redshirt freshman kicker Cade Coffey made his contribution on the game with three good extra points and a 36-yard field goal less than a minute into the second half.
Idaho’s defense came onto the turf on fire throughout the second half. They created four takeaways, holding the Georgia State Panthers to 132 yards of total offense. The Panthers found themselves in the red zone on five different occasions, but the Silver and Gold limited them to just one touchdown and a field goal within those entries.
The game came to an end with a score of 24-10. The 14-point win for the Vandals resulted on Idahos first Sun Belt game this season decided by more than eight points.
Idaho heads into the offseason on a win in their final game as an FBS team. Petrino said that now it is time for the athletes to focus on their life outside of football and the future of the program.
“They’re going to enjoy it for a little bit, but they’re going to need to get ready for their finals. They have a big week of finals and we’ll have a big recruiting weekend next weekend. Right now, it’s all about school and recruiting. I won’t even go home; I’ll leave right from here to go recruiting. So, it’s just all about next year, and building for the future, and making sure our seniors graduate by doing the best they can. And our young guys getting good grades, grinding and being the best that we can be,” Petrino said.
Marisa Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org