Idaho’s defense kept the game in control during Thursday’s 20-17 win against Montana State.
After junior quarterback Matt Linehan led the offense in an explosive first quarter, the running game and run defense held the lead.
“Our defense, especially in the second half, was the best defense we’ve played since I’ve been here,” Idaho head coach Paul Petrino said.
Idaho’s rushing attack kept the offense balanced, thanks to a rotation of running backs. Long runs by junior running back Aaron Duckworth gave the Vandals a boost. Duckworth ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
“We found two ways to get a win, and that’s the most important part,” Petrino said.
In the first play of the game, Linehan dropped back and tossed a high pass for 36 yards. A leaping senior tight end Deon Watson snatched it out of the air.
After another long reception by Watson, Duckworth bullied his way through the line to find daylight. His 43-yard run put Idaho back on top 10-7.
Senior safety Russell Siavii came away with an interception late in the first quarter.
It was special teams that started the scoring for the Vandals with senior kicker Austin Rehkow’s 44-yard field goal.
Montana State wasted no time getting downfield to answer. A long pass to the end zone was broken up by senior cornerback Jayshawn Jordan. Not long after, Montana set up a bubble screen that ended with junior wide receiver Justin Paige sprinting to the left pylon and scoring a touchdown for the Bobcats.
In the second half, the game began to slow down. Linehan’s passes became shorter and more sporadic as Idaho focused on the running game.
With a few more Rehkow field goals and busted rush defense by Montana, Idaho took the victory.
The Vandals play Washington 2 p.m., Sept. 10. in Seattle.