Vandals come back in fourth to beat Louisiana Tech, 35 - 34 - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Vandals come back in fourth to beat Louisiana Tech, 35 - 34

MOSCOW, Idaho - Idaho's Vandals proved there's a lot of truth to the adage better late than never in a football thriller Saturday afternoon at the Kibbie Dome.

After a dismal start to the Western Athletic Conference game with Louisiana Tech, the Vandals finally took the lead, 35-34, on DeMaundray Woolridge's two-yard run with 52 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs made one final push to win the game they'd led for 59 minutes and eight seconds only to watch as Matt Nelson's 56-yard field goal was wide left.

"We kept it entertaining," coach Robb Akey said after the Vandals improved to 7-2, 4-1 in the WAC. "All that matters is that we came out with the proper finish."

There were times early in the game when the "proper finish" might have been in doubt in the minds of anyone except this resilient, persistent, determined 2009 version of the Idaho Vandals. They trailed 21-0 with almost three minutes left in the first quarter and were down 28-14 at halftime. At that point, they'd yielded 360 total yards, while covering 183.

"There were some adjustments that the coaching staff made during the course of the game that the players did respond to," Akey said, "but there also was the fact that the football team was settling themselves in and starting to execute their assignments a little bit better, and I think that, itself, made a heck of a difference."

That increased precision allowed the Vandals to outscore Louisiana Tech (3-5, 2-3) 21-6 in the second half, which enabled them to stay undefeated at home and to keep the Bulldogs winless on the road.

"Epic," said defensive end Aaron Lavarias in agreeing with a reporter's question. "That's the word I would use to describe it. If feels great. Homecoming - in front of all the fans. I couldn't think of a better way to end it - except maybe us winning by 50 or something like that. This was a sweet victory for sure."

Steady Max Komar, who caught seven of Nate Enderle's passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns, brought the Vandals to within one touchdown with a 32-yard TD with 10:38 left in the third. Almost all of the next 11 minutes were a pushing match during which neither team could score. 

Moments into the fourth, though, Louisiana Tech added some distance with a Myke Compton one-yard run. Nelson's PAT was off-target and the 13-point spread would be telling down the stretch.

Down 34-21 with 14:57 to play didn't faze the Vandals.

It didn't put doubt in their minds when their next drive ended on a missed 47-yard Trey Farquhar field goal or the next on an intercepted pass. The defense that had been porous early, held late and, with 7:29 left in the game, the Vandals began their final march for the lead.

"Our heads weren't in it, I guess," said Lavarias, who tallied one sack and three tackles for loss in his eight stops. "Luckily, we screwed them back on for the second half and got it done."

Enderle mixed passes to Komar and true freshmen Justin Veltung (whose thrilling 94-yard kickoff return to open the game with a Vandal TD seemed so long ago) with a key third-down run by Deonte Jackson to march Idaho to the Tech one. Woolridge, as he has so often this year, pushed through to score with 5:51 remaining to cut the lead to 34-28.

The defense held to force another punt and with 3:02 left, the Vandals were on the move again. After two incompletions, Enderle found Hardy for a 13-yarder and a key third-down conversion. Komar had the next big catch (a 19-yard), with Eric Greenwood's six-yard reception and Jackson's 12-yard run adding up to another Vandal first down at the Tech 17. Enderle was dropped for a six-yard loss on first down before finding Hardy on a 21-yard pickup.

Again, the ball went to Woolridge and again he bulled his way through for the two-yard touchdown that, with Farquhar's PAT, gave the Vandals their first lead.

"Being able to do whatever it took to win the game - that's what I'm most concerned with," Akey said. "That's what this football team has done now seven times."

Becky Paull, Asst. AD/Media Relations, University of Idaho Vandal Athletics

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