They had the ball for 41 of the game's 60 minutes. They forced four turnovers. The quarterback had another 300-yard passing effort, and the running game was located for the first time since the season opener.
And once again, the Idaho Vandals come home with a loss.
Behind a 284-yard rushing performance by Terrence Franks, the Texas State Bobcats held off Idaho's bid for its first win of the 2014 season, posting a 35-30 victory at Jim Wacker Stadium in San Marcos in front of 21,345 witnesses.
For more on the Vandals and their struggles, follow the link to the jump.
"You look at this stat sheet and it makes you cry," said Idaho coach Paul Petrino, as quoted in this story off the school's website. And here are the tear-inducing numbers. There are also accounts from the Spokesman-Review and the San Antonio Express-News, and post-game remarks to the press from Petrino, Texas State coach Dennis Franchione and some Bobcats players.
It's pretty obvious what buried the Vandals: getting behind again, giving up big plays again and not turning enough trips into the red zone into points.
Four times in the first half, the Vandals penetrated the Texas State 25-yard line. Total production: three points. Continuing his struggles from a week ago, Austin Rehkow connected on a 29-yard field goal, but then missed from 40 and 41 yards, and quarterback Matt Linehan threw an interception at the goal line with Idaho poised to take the lead early in the second quarter. Making matters worse, the defense promptly gave up a 95-yard touchdown run to Franks, who had earlier scored from 70.
"We rean 105 plays for 523 yards," Petrino said, staring at the stats. "They only ran 58 plays for 466. What kills us is we had the ball over 41 minutes to their 18. We got into their territory and did not get points."
The Vandals were considerably more productive after intermission, at which point they trailed 21-3. They put together a 15-play drive for their first touchdown. They closed the gap to 21-16 with another. But after both, the almost immediately gave up big runs -- another 70-yarder by Franks and a 27-yarder by quarterback Tyler Jones, both for touchdowns.
But Idaho's resilience was impressive. Linehan piloted another long drive -- 16 plays -- and for the third time in the half pulled the Vandals within five points, 35-30, with 1:17 to go. And the defense finally came up with a three-and-out, the offense getting the ball on its own 25 with plenty of time get down field. But Germod Williams, who had intercepted Linehan in the first half, foiled him again with another pick, and the Vandals were 0-5.
All in all, it made for a tough plane ride home.
"We just have to keep fighting," Petrino said, dredging up a familiar refrain. "There is not much else we can do. This is a really tough group of guys who are sticking together and competing."
--- The Vandals finally revived their running game, though it appears former No. 1 Jerrel Brown has slipped back in the rotation -- he had no carries this day. Kris Olugbode got the start and led the way with 80 yards on 13 carries, while Aaron Duckworth had 63 and Elijhaa Penny 41.
"We ran the ball more," Petrino said. "I think we wore them out . . . It was good to see our (running backs) have some good runs. They ran hard. Stats are great, but we needed to get the win."
--- Protecting Linehan has become impossible. Seven sacks last week. Nine by Texas State, eight in the first half.
"We did not slide on our protection a few times when we had it accounted for and just did not get it done," Petrino said.
Petrino finished with 347 yards on 33 of 52 passing, with those two picks. Three times this year -- in losses to Louisiana-Monroe, Ohio and now Texas State -- Idaho's last chance was snuffed by a Linehan interception.
--- Idaho has now lost 19 consecutive road games, and 16 of 17 starts under Petrino.
The Vandals jump back on the plane for another cross-country ride next week, when they play at Georgia Southern, which spotted New Mexico State (2-4 overall, 1-1 league) a two-touchdown head start before roaring back to win 36-28. In their first year in the FBS ranks, GSU (4-2 overall) is atop the Sun Belt Conference with a 3-0 record. Elsewhere in the Sun Belt, league favorite Louisiana-Lafayette (2-3, 1-0) got all it could handle from bottom-dweller Georgia State (1-4, 0-2), needing a late touchdown to pull out a 34-31 win. South Alabama (3-2, 2-1) kept the momentum going from its swamping of Idaho last week with a 47-21 drubbing of Appalachian State (1-4, 0-2). Arkansas State (3-2, 1-0) broke up a 0-0 game at half and went on to beat Louisiana-Monroe (3-2, 2-1) 28-14.