Over and over Saturday, the Idaho Vandals found themselves in position to win or keep alive one of the zaniest games inside the Kibbie Dome in years.
A field goal from place-kicker Trey Farquhar came within inches of curling inside the left upright. Brian Reader’s pass to an outstretched Mike Scott, who had one toe down near the sideline, looked to be a catch.
And in a last-gasp attempt, UI came within 2 yards of extending the game.
But the Vandals could only shake their heads about the final minutes – and myriad other missed chances – after a 49-42 double-overtime loss to Utah State in front of 8,216 fans at Moscow, Idaho.
The 3-hour, 50-minute game ended on Bobby Wagner’s interception of Reader at the goal line on fourth down.
The Vandals, after perhaps the most crushing loss in a season full of what-ifs, are 2-9 and 1-5 in the WAC. They’ve lost four contests this year by a touchdown or less, two of which went to OT.
“It was an exciting football game with an ending that wasn’t worth a darn,” said Idaho coach Robb Akey, summing up an emotional day that started with UI honoring 20 seniors before the final home game of their careers.
Utah State (5-5, 3-2) fumbled twice in final 8:59 of regulation and officials repeatedly overturned calls that would have sealed the game for the Aggies. Yet the Vandals responded with a missed 44-yard field goal from Farquhar and a possession in the last 2 minutes marred by two critical penalties that pushed them out of field-goal range.
Idaho grabbed the lead, 42-35, in the first overtime on the third rushing touchdown of the day from linebacker Korey Toomer, who took a sweep and hurdled over the goal-line pile for the TD.
But USU’s Robert Turbin, who had 208 yards on the ground, responded with a rushing TD. Then he started the second OT with his third score on the ground.
Idaho took over, and Reader promptly threw what appeared to be a game-ending interception in the end zone. Tailback Kama Bailey, disgusted by the apparent end, ripped off his helmet and chucked it toward midfield.
Yet the replay officials overturned the call. Two plays later, UI’s Daniel Micheletti made an improbable diving catch on fourth-and-6 – after Reader had been hit as he threw – to keep the drive going.
The Vandals marched to the 2-yard line, but a delay-of-game penalty on fourth down pushed them back before Reader – looking for Scott in the middle of the end zone – was picked off by Wagner.
“Unbelievable,” USU coach Gary Andersen said. “We continue to live on the edge. We’re finding a way to get those wins at the end.”
Idaho, which trailed 21-7 early, got a spark from safety Quin Ashley’s 78-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. The subsequent two-point conversion evened at the score at 21.
Utah State had four turnovers in the second half, but the Vandals only mustered 10 points off the Aggies’ mistakes. The best opportunity for the decisive score came in the final 2 minutes, after a fumble from Turbin.
But the Vandals were called for an unsportsmanlike penalty and holding, both of which negated gains inside 35.
“We got in our kicker’s range and kind of shot ourselves in the foot two times in a row,” said Reader, who finished with 275 yards and 27-of-39 passing.
Louisiana Tech 24, Nevada 20: Colby Cameron passed for three fourth-quarter touchdowns and the Bulldogs (7-4, 5-1) stunned host Nevada (6-4, 4-1) in Reno.
San Jose State 27, Navy 24: At San Jose, Calif., Brandon Rutley rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns and caught a career-high eight passes for 101 yards, lifting the Spartans (4-7) to a victory over Navy (4-7), which had its streak of eight straight years in a bowl game end.
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