Idaho fell to Troy, 24-21, when it could not extend a fourth quarter comeback and recover an onside kick after scoring a touchdown with 23 seconds to play.
Worse yet, the Vandals lost senior quarterback Matt Linehan, third in career passing yardage, to a hand injury. With first down at the four-yard line, and trailing 24-14, Linehan sprinted out under pressure and threw toward the end zone as he was being tackled. Marcus Jones intercepted the pass and returned it 97 yards, but the play was overturned when a replay showed Linehan’s knee was down before he let go of the ball. He fell on his right hand, though, which also may have been stepped on.
Linehan left the field with his arm in a cast.
Mason Petrino replaced him and was sacked. However the Trojans’ Kelvin Lucky was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, which gave Idaho first and goal at the six-yard line. From there, Petrino sprinted out and found David Ungerer in the corner of the end zone. Cade Coffey’s kick brought Idaho within three points, but the Trojans recovered the Vandals’ onside kick, and quarterback Brandon Silvers took a knee to end the game.
Petrino said of Linehan “he’s a warrior. We love him to death, and he competed his tail off,” but he would not comment on the severity of Linehan’s injury.
What Petrino did focus on was a handful of plays that could have changed the outcome. With Troy facing a third and 25 late in the first half with the score tied at 7-7, Vandals’ safety Armond Hawkins was ejected for targeting. Troy was able to continue the drive to the 25-yard line, and Tyler Sumpter kicked a 40-yard field goal to put the Trojans ahead at the half. They never relinquished the lead. Idaho also failed to convert three key third downs. One was a missed pass, another was a dropped pass, and the third was a breakdown in pass protection. “We should have converted all three of them,” Petrino said.
Idaho got as close as 17-14 in the third quarter when Alfonso Onunwor outfought Jones for a Linehan pass in the corner of the end zone to cap an eight-play 90-yard drive.
On the next series the Vandals held Troy and on fourth and five forced the Trojans to settle for a 29-yard field goal. They were penalized for running into the kicker, however, and Troy’s gamble to take the points off the board and continue the series paid off when two plays later Jordan Chunn blasted his way into the end zone from seven yards out for his second touchdown. Instead of trailing by four points, the Vandals found themselves down by 10, 24-14.