For a while Saturday night, the Idaho Vandals were college football's Team Deja Vu.
After seeing their season opener at Florida delayed, suspended and finally canceled after massive lightning strikes and rain, the Vandals nearly had it happen again at Round 2, their Sun Belt Conference opener at Louisiana Monroe. Following a Warhawks touchdown to broke a 7-7 tie with 3:32 left in the first quarter, officials waved a halt to the action because of lightning. But at least when the game started up again at 6:49 p.m. PDT -- after a 2 hour, 6 minute delay -- it went the distance.
Alas for the Vandals, they didn't make it to the finish line first, falling 38-31 on Centarius Donald's 1-yard plunge with nine seconds to play.
For more on the Vandals, the link will take you to the jump.
-- Disappointing as the loss may have been, it's worth noting the heralded ULM defense surrendered just 94 yards and five first downs in a 17-10 victory over Wake Forest last weekend. The Vandals worked the Warhawks for 442 and 25 -- with a quarterback playing in his first college game.
-- Vandals coach Paul Petrino, thrilled the fight in his team, was nonetheless dismayed with the failure to grasp a golden opportunity at game's end. "We had the ball with a little over two minutes and a tie game," he said. "You have to go score. You have to win."
-- Though he's been insisting for a couple of weeks now that both Matt Linehan and Chad Chalich would see time at quarterback, Linehan wound up going all the way after getting the starting nod. That would seem to be a concession to Petrino's other stand, that figured to trump whatever he had planned: that he wouldn't hesitate to ride a hot hand. Linehan -- son of another former Idaho QB, Dallas Cowboys assistant Scott Linehan -- completed 26 of 47 passes for 324 yards and 3 touchdowns, with 2 interceptions. He was sacked four times. He certainly didn't seem to come in with much in the way of first-game jitters: he completed his first eight passes. "I thought Matt Linehan played his butt off," Petrino said.
-- A slew of mishaps did in the Vandals, including three turnovers (two picks, one lost fumble) and 119 yards on 12 penalties (compared to five for 40 by ULM). Those undid more positive numbers: 9-of-18 on third-down conversions, 4-of-4 on red zone scoring opportunities,
-- Jerrel Brown rushed for 117 yards on 22 carries. It took the Vandals five games to produce a 100-yard rusher last season -- and then it was Chalich, mostly running for his life. Joshua McCain, who was on the other end of passes last year, led all UI receivers with eight catches for 93 yards.
Idaho coach Paul Petrino:
-- "I told (the players) in the locker room afterwards that this was a big step forward for this program. They fought their tails off the whole game. You just can't have 13 penalties versus two in one game."
-- "We had a couple key drops. I thought Matt Linehan played his butt off. We competed unbelievable. It's just a tough day. We took a couple steps forward."