So the trend of 2017 Idaho football, a team which nearly wins against unfavorable odds, continues. In a balanced contest, featuring fixable Vandal mistakes, the Trojans adjusted their game plan after the Vandals nearly infiltrated their boundaries, contrasting history by quelling the Sack of Troy and booting the horse down the rocks.
Up until suffering an injury to his throwing-hand at the end of the game, Linehan was Idaho’s bright-spot, the Achilles in the battle. While completing nearly 68 percent of his passes, he again did not throw any interceptions, extending his pick-less streak dating back to the Sept. 16 loss at Western Michigan.
When Linehan wasn’t getting flushed out of the pocket or hammered down on a sack immediately following a drop-back, he was consistently finding holes in Troy’s defense, exemplified by his early-fourth quarter touchdown drive culminating in a precise 23-yard back-corner ball thrown to senior wideout Alfonso Onunwor.
But as Idaho’s leading combatant did his job, team-wide mental and remediable mistakes plagued the Vandals.
The first drive of the game featured an impressive Idaho offense up until the red zone. A 40-yard field goal isn’t always an expected make for college kickers, but freshman Cade Coffey had done it before.
After the game went final, the attempt which sailed wide-right was seared into the minds of Idaho fans, as it would have scored the points needed to later send the Vandals into overtime.
Two high-snaps from sophomore snapper/tight end Luke Hyde, who was perhaps the first long-snapper I had ever seen benched, resulted in short boots for Coffey. The second, which came at about the 8:40 mark in the second, scurried away from the young punter. Coffey handled it barely in time to whip his leg around while being hit in likely the most incredible 20-yard punt of all time. Although Coffey’s ability to get the punt away was amazing, the short-field led to a preventable Troy touchdown.
The final drive of the first half featured a similar mental err. Senior safety Armond Hawkins plowed a tad too hard into a Trojan receiver as he was falling out of bounds on third-and-25 with 23 seconds remaining. Hawkins was handed a targeting penalty and an ejection, while Troy was granted a first down, leading to a field goal that put the Trojans up 10-7 at half.
As the game continued, the Vandals played level to the Trojans. Missteps in dire situations, however, compared to redeemable errors by Troy, spelled demise for Idaho.
With about five minutes remaining in the game, as Troy was set up with a fourth-and-6, about to kick a field goal to make it 20-14, the Vandals were tagged with a running into the kicker penalty, setting up a short fourth-and-1 for the Trojans.
Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers would get the first down from there, and running back Jordan Chunn, Troy’s revived Hector in the game, bounced in for a seven-yard score. With the Trojans now up two scores stemming from avoidable occurrences, Idaho’s winning probability diminished to its lowest degree.
Idaho again faced adversity and appeared as if it were strong enough to hang with the likes of the Sun Belt’s current number one team. But with too many cracks in the metaphorical horse, this time the Trojans were able to subdue an unexpected invasion.
Colton Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @coltonclark95