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Idaho gets 1st win, beats New Mexico State 26-18

UPDATED: Sat., Oct. 6, 2012, 8:42 p.m.

Idaho Vandals (Courtesy)
Idaho Vandals (Courtesy)

MOSCOW, Idaho – Friday, Trey Farquhar got a surprise foot rub from an Olympic gold medalist. And Saturday, after Idaho’s 26-18 Western Athletic Conference football win over New Mexico State, he earned something almost as rare for a place-kicker.

Praise from a quarterback.

“This is the man right here,” Vandals QB Dominique Blackman told reporters as he wrapped his arm around Farquhar in the media room.

Farquhar was perfect again on field goals in front of a season-high homecoming crowd of 14,755 at the Kibbie Dome. All four of his kicks, including two from beyond 50 yards, proved vital in UI’s first victory of the season.

In a game filled with mishaps – particularly from the Aggies, who had four turnovers, eight penalties and two turnovers on downs – Farquhar’s rock-solid performance stood out.

It was already a special weekend for the senior after Idaho alumna Kristin Armstrong, a two-time gold medalist in cycling, met with the team Friday and took out one of her medals in front of Farquhar.

“She rubbed (my right foot) with the gold medal,” he said with a smile. “It was pretty awesome.”

Farquhar, who has yet to miss a field goal at home this year, matched a career high with a 55-yarder to end the first half. Instead of being up by just a touchdown, Idaho took a 20-10 lead into the break.

“He closed that the half with a little momentum,” said UI coach Robb Akey, whose team beat an FBS team for the first time at home since Dec. 4, 2010.

The Vandals (1-5, 1-0) were coasting before NMSU mounted a late touchdown drive, kept alive by an unsportsmanlike penalty on UI’s Quayshawne Buckley. It was his third personal foul of the game.

The Aggies (1-5, 0-2) converted a two-point play after their score to draw within eight points, but Idaho’s Roman Runner pounced on the onside kick. With 1:55 left and NMSU out of timeouts, Idaho was able to run out the clock with kneel-downs.

“So now we’ve won a game, we’ve just got to learn to win,” Blackman said. “Winning teams would put that team away.”

Despite a third 300-yard game for Blackman this season, he bemoaned a number of missed opportunities by the offense. Akey also wasn’t pleased with two turnovers and nine penalties for 97 yards.

The Vandals, though, did just enough with New Mexico State’s turnovers, most notably a fumbled punt in the first quarter and a splendid tipped-ball interception from Homer Mauga a few minutes later.

UI responded quickly after both with touchdown passes from Blackman to Najee Lovett and Jahrie Level to go up 17-3.

“I’m happy for the whole team,” Akey said. “They’ve done a good job. We are capable of doing more things like this. We need to continue to grow.”

For now, Akey is also happy knowing this: After a miserable start to the season, Idaho is tied for first place in the WAC standings.

At least for one week.