Idaho Blows Big Lead Again, Falls to S. Alabama 52-45 - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Idaho Blows Big Lead Again, Falls to S. Alabama 52-45

For the second straight game the Idaho Vandals have surrended a lead of 23+ points. For the second straight game the Idaho Vandals have surrended a lead of 23+ points.

MOBILE, Ala. – It may be cliché but in the case of the Idaho Vandals Saturday night at South Alabama, it rang true – three plays.

Three plays can make all the difference and in Idaho’s 52-45 loss to the Jaguars, it was a kickoff returned 100 yards for a touchdown, a fumbled kickoff return deep in their own territory that led to a score, and a blocked punt that also led to a USA score.

“I can’t believe it,” Coach Paul Petrino said after the game. “I really thought we had a great game play. We came out and executed it really well early on both offensive and defensively.”

Actually, through the first two quarters then, and Petrino probably said it best, there were “all those goofy things.”

The result was a complete momentum switch to the Jaguars and the second heart-breaking loss in as many weeks.

“I told them before the game,” Petrino said, “no matter what happens, let’s go out there and give it everything we’ve got. Lay it on the line. We’ll either be happy or we’ll be crushed. We’re crushed.”

The bright spots would be senior running back Elijhaa Penny with his third successive game of 100 or more yards (135); sophomore quarterback Matt Linehan with his tird game of more than 300 yards passing (307), and junior tight end Deon Watson with seven catches for 109 yards and junior receiver Callen Hightower with nine receptions for 85 yards.

Defensively, senior end Quinton Bradley and freshman linebacker Kaden Elliss each had nine tackles and Elliss had 2.5 tackles for losses totaling 12 yards. And, junior kicker/punter averaged 47 yards on five punts.

Rehkow opened the scoring for Idaho with a 24-yard field goal with 10:49 to play in the first. His kick capped a nine-play, 68-yard drive and was the seventh time in nine games that the Vandals’ first score was a field goal.

A 10-yard sack by Kaden Elliss put the Jaguars in a big hole on third down on USA’s first drive. An incomplete pass followed and USA was forced to punt. An illegal block in the back by Idaho on the return gave the Vandals the ball at their own nine to start their second drive.

Deon Watson scored for the Vandals on their next possession with a 10-yard hookup with Linehan in a drive that featured 27-yard passes to Hightower and Mwehla, as well as a two-yard reception by center Steve Matlock who grabbed the ball as it bounced off the helmets and shoulder pads of the defense. The 10-play, 91-yard drive, capped by Rehkow’s PAT kick, put Idaho up 10-0 with 5:18 to go in the first.

Penny scored on a one-yard run to cap the Vandals’ next scoring drive (nine plays, 80 yards) as the Vandals went up 17-0 with Rehkow’s PAT kick with 11:22 to go in the first half. Deon Watson pulled in a 41-yard pass from Linehan to highlight the drive with the fourth-longest catch of the year for the Vandals.

Idaho was forced to punt on its next possession but this went the Vandals’ way when Josh Magee fumbled the return and Kendrick Trotter pounced on it at the Jaguars’ 22. Linehan went to Watson again two plays later for a 17-yard scoring play. Rehkow’s kick made it 24-0 with 6:51 remaining in the second quarter.

After a 41-yard kickoff to start their next drive, the Jaguars drove to within one-football length of scoring before being stopped on fourth down by the Vandals, who took over with 2:30 to go in the half. They were forced to punt but Rehkow’s 49-yard boot pushed South Alabama back to its own 42. This time, though, the Jaguars made their way to the end zone with Marvin Shinn pulling in a six-yard pass from Cody Clements. With 1:20 to go in the half, Idaho led 24-7.

The Jaguars quickly made to 24-14 with Xavier Johnson’s 100-yard kickoff return to start the second half. The Vandals were forced to punt on their next possession but Rehkow’s 54-yard punt pinned the Jaguars at their own two, which began a succession of punt trading. That ended when Kevin Shelton recovered a fumbled USA punt return but the Jaguars quickly turned the tables when Devon Earl recovered Penny’s fumble and returned it 57 yards to cut Idaho’s lead to 24-21 with 4:19 to go in the third.

The tide continued to turn for the Jaguars when Jalen Thompson blocked Rehkow’s punt and Margo Reed returned it to the Idaho 6. Clements ran in untouched from the six to put USA up 28-24 with 3:08 to go in the third.

Penny scored the Vandals’ first TD of the half when he rolled in from the 19 – a run that boosted Idaho to a 31-28 lead and gave put Penny at more than 100 yards rushing for the third successive drive. Rehkow’s kick capped a seven-play, 67-yard drive.

USA responded with a 16-yard TD pass from Clements to Gerald Everett to start the fourth quarter. With 13:14 to play in the game, the Jaguars led 35-31. Insult was added to injury on the ensuing kickoff when Mwehla fumbled and DeMarrion Buford-Hughes recovered for South Alabama at the Idaho nine. After a penalty pushed the Jaguars back to the 29, USA settled for a 41-yard field goal. With 11:47 to play, South Alabama led 38-31.

Reed picked off Linehan at the USA 16 to end Idaho’s next drive with 9:43 on the game clock. A 50-yard pickup by Xavier Johnson moved the ball into Vandal territory at the Idaho 34. Six plays later, Clements ran in from the eight for the 45-31 lead with 7:42 left in the game.

The Vandals responded quickly when Linehan kept the ball for an 11-yard score to cap a six-play, 57-yard drive that used just 1:59. Aaron Duckworth helped set up the TD with a 40-yard kickoff return – Idaho’s longest of the season.

USA struck with another big play when Johnson romped 61 yards to score just 24 seconds later for a 52-38 lead with 5:19 to go in the game.

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