The Idaho football team kept its postseason hope alive after a last-minute 34-31 win over Louisiana-Monroe Saturday in Monroe.
Senior kicker Austin Rehkow elevated the Vandals with four field goals. His last kick sealed the win for Idaho.
“It was a team win,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said in an interview with ESPN radio. “If there was ever a win where we believed, I’d say it was that one.”
Rehkow earned Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance.
Junior quarterback Matt Linehan led the Vandal offense with 211 yards and one touchdown. Junior running back Aaron Duckworth handled the ground game with 128 yards on 16 carries.
Idaho struck first when Rehkow booted a 28-yard field goal.
Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Garrett Smith tried to move the offense on the next drive. His pass was picked off by sophomore linebacker Kaden Elliss. Rehkow delivered another field goal to put Idaho up 6-0.
Idaho senior cornerback Jayshawn Jordan intercepted another pass from Smith two plays later.
The Vandals carried to the Louisiana-Monroe 24-yard line where Rehkow hit a third field goal.
Idaho’s special teams provided the first touchdown of the game. On a Warhawk punt, freshman defensive back Qendarrion Barnett dove around the line and blocked the kick. Senior cornerback Kendrick Trotter scooped up the loose ball and scurried 19 yards into the end zone.
At the end of first quarter, Idaho led 16-0.
The Warhawks found their offensive rhythm in the second quarter. Running back Ben Luckett took advantage of holes in Idaho’s defensive line. Luckett scored a touchdown on a 31-yard run.
Duckworth responded with a 55-yard run on Idaho’s next drive. Freshman running back Denzel Brantley took over for Duckworth in the red zone and scored on a two-yard run. The Warhawks were down 17 points when two consecutive touchdown drives cut Idaho’s lead to three.
At the end of the first half, Vandals led 24-21.
The halftime break rejuvenated the Idaho defense.
Jordan recovered a fumble at midfield during Louisiana’s first possession of the half, but the offense stalled after the turnover and was forced to punt.
The Warhawks moved down the field and kicked a field goal to tie the game 24-24.
During the drive, sophomore linebacker Tony Lashley was ejected for targeting Smith.
Lashley sat out the rest of the half and will miss the first half of Idaho’s next game. The penalty negated what would have been an interception for the defense.
Idaho wasted no time regaining the lead. Senior receiver Jordan Frysinger cut behind the Warhawk secondary and took Linehan’s pass 71 yards to the end zone.
Idaho’s defense grabbed another interception to start the fourth quarter. Senior safety Russell Siavii jumped in front of the Warhawk receiver and snatched the ball out of the air.
After the teams exchanged punts, Louisiana-Monroe receiver Ajalen Holly hauled in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Smith to tie the game at 31.
With 2:28 left, the Vandal offense took the field. A 40-yard burst from Duckworth put Idaho within field goal range. Rehkow’s 27-yard field goal sailed inside the left upright to give Idaho the win as the clock struck zero.
Idaho returns home next, taking on New Mexico State 2 p.m. Saturday in the Kibbie Dome.
Brandon Hill can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @brandonmtnhill