Vandals Top ULM 27-13 for Homecoming Win - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Vandals Top ULM 27-13 for Homecoming Win

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by Idaho Athletics

MOSCOW, Idaho – Matt Linehan called it the greatest feeling in football. ‘It’ was the victory formation at the end of Idaho’s 27-13 Sun Belt Conference victory over Louisiana-Monroe before 14,414 Homecoming fans.

“It’s awesome,” said coach Paul Petrino after the Vandals won back-to-back for the first time since 2009 and won three games in a season for the first time since 2010. “We are getting where we need to be.”

Idaho (3-4, 2-2) did it with senior running back Elijhaa Penny carrying the ball 36 times for 184 of Idaho’s 489 total yards. Adding balance to his running were Matt Linehan’s 315 passing yards (Dezmon Epps had 98 of them on nine catches) and an inspired defensive effort that totaled six tackles for loss for -29 yards. Freshman Kaden Elliss had three of those among his team-best nine tackles.

Penny's carries tie for fifth best all-time at Idaho. He matched Zach Gerstner, who had 36 against Louisiana-Monroe in 2003. His 184 yards are 16th best all-time at Idaho. It was Idaho’s fourth successive homecoming game victory and the Vandals’ 10th in the last 13 celebrations.

“Our defense flew around and played with a nasty chip on their shoulder,” Petrino said. “They keep getting better and better. When good things happen, you get on a roll.”

Petrino, who awarded the game ball to Jace Malek (Idaho’s 2015 signee who continues his battle with cancer), was quick to spread the praise round.

“I want to go on record to make sure I recognize how great of a job our assistant coaches are doing,” he said. “They’re busting their tails every single day and are working to get our guys better. They’re doing a great job.”

The Vandals scored on their opening possession with a 39-yard field goal by Rehkow with 8:56 left in the first quarter. It capped 13-play drive that at times was fluid but at times ragged with a personal foul call and a sack causing setbacks.

After trading punts, the Vandals turned the ball over deep in their own territory when Linehan fumbled at the UI 15 and the Warhawks recovered. ULM took the lead on Marcus Green’s 11-yard pass from Garrett Smith with 42 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Another sack was the culprit in thwarting the next Idaho drive and, again, the Vandals called on Rehkow again and he was good again from 39 yards – again. With 12:02 to go in the first half, Idaho trailed 7-6.

Another fumble by Linehan gave the ball to the Warhawks at the Idaho 15. This time a defensive stand that included two tackles-for-loss by Kaden Elliss forced ULM to opt for a field goal. Craig Ford’s kick from 44 yards was good for a 10-6 lead with 9:03 left in the first half.

A third turnover brought to an end another drive that was showing promise. Linehan was intercepted in the end zone by Tre’ Hunter, who just out-jumped Dezmon Epps for the ball.

The Vandals had the last say in the first half when Linehan found Buck Cowan over the middle for a 36-yard touchdown with seven seconds. Rehkow’s kick made it 13-10 and the teams headed into halftime after the Warhawks took a knee on first down. Idaho’s drive – 96 yards, was its longest of the season.

After trading possessions to start the second half, ULM tied the game with Ford’s 31-yard field goal with 9:03 to go in the third.

Idaho went up 20-13 when Linehan found Deon Watson for a 34-yard score with 6:27 left in the third quarter. It capped another sustained drive for the Vandals who covered 79 yards on nine plays for the TD.

Watson and Linehan hooked up again for a 23-yard TD with 12:35 to go. The eight-play drive covered 60 yards and put the Vandals up 27-13.

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