AUBURN, Ala. – Paul Petrino could be proud of his Vandals for many reasons Saturday afternoon at Auburn, but what will always nag the Idaho coach were the mistakes that took away from the Vandals and gave the Tigers added opportunities.
Despite winning the total offense battle, the Vandals lost 56-34.
“I told the players that I was really proud of them,” Petrino said. “I thought they came out and played with great effort and great toughness. Our guys really fought and played hard. Unfortunately, we had a couple key mistakes that let the game get a little bit away from us.”
The Vandals – with both quarterbacks sharing time, totaled 479 yards total offense to 460 for the Tigers. For the second time this season, two receivers eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the same game, with tight end Trent Cowan pulling in 10 catches for 118 and receiver Callen Hightower grabbing eight for 161. Matt Linehan completed 15 of his 29 passes for 192 yards and Jake Luton hit 14 of 18 for 164.
Idaho lost starting running back Elijhaa Penny to a strained knee in the first quarter, which left a committee of Aaron Duckworth, Isaiah Saunders, Luton and Linehan making up the bulk of the 150 yards on the ground,
Idaho’s Jordan Grabski had 12 tackles (nine solo and three assists). Kaden Elliss totaled eight and Quinton Bradley had seven, as well as two tackles for loss.
“I was proud of them,” Petrino said. “I tell them all the time if you give it everything you have as far as toughness and effort, then you should walk out of there with your head held high and be proud. And that’s how they should walk out of here.”
The Tigers scored on their first possession when Peyton Barber capped an eight-play, 66-yard drive with a 2-yard plunge with 12:31 to go in the first.
The Vandals responded immediately after Linehan hooked up with Hightower for a 71-yard pickup. Penny went over from the 4 as Idaho took just 40 seconds to even the score at 7 on Austin Rehkow’s PAT kick. It was Hightower’s longest reception of the season.
After trading punts, Auburn scored again on Jovon Robinson’s 13-yard run to cap a seven-play, 65-yard drive. With 4:49 to go in the first, the Tigers went up 14-7.
With big catches by Cowan and Hightower, and ground coverage by Duckworth and Linehan, the Vandals marched to the Auburn 1 before the drive stalled on third down. Rehkow’s 25-yard field goal trimmed Auburn’s lead to 14-10 with 14:56 left in the first half.
On their next drive, the Tigers converted a fake punt into a first down at the Idaho 33 and scored seven plays later on Jeremy Johnson’s 1-yard run. With 9:44 to play in the second quarter, Auburn led 21-10.
Auburn converted an Idaho fumble into a score.. After recovering and errant snap at the Vandals’ 23, the Tigers scored four plays later on Johnson’s 15-yard pass to Ricardo Louis with 7:58 to go before halftime for a 28-10 Auburn advantage.
The Tigers made it 35-10 when Linehan, as he was chased out of the pocket, misfired and was intercepted by Johnathan Ford. Ford returned the ball 48 yards for the TD with 6:47 left in the first half.
The Vandals responded with a 12-play, 75-yard drive capped by Linehan’s 1-yard run. Along the way, Jake Luton came in for a handful of plays, Kareem Coles threw his first collegiate pass, and Saunders and Duckworth picked up key yardage on the ground. With 2:25 to play, Rehkow’s kick made it 35-17.
The Tigers made the most of a couple of Vandals miscues in the third quarter and went up 49-17 before Rehkow connected on a 45-yarder with 2:24 to go in the third. It was his longest field goal of the season and second longest in his collegiate career.
The Vandals added a fourth-down TD on a 9-yard pass from Luton to Hightower with 10:19 to go. Rehkow’s kick made it 56-27.
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