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Idaho blows 24-point lead in 52-45 loss at South Alabama

Maybe we shouldn't be that surprised. Because, admit it, it was the first thing that popped into your head when Idaho jumped out to a 24-0 first-half lead at South Alabama. 

'There's no way it can happen again ... right?' you remember telling yourself. 

Well, believe it. It did. 

South Alabama took less than a quarter to put up 28 unanswered points and eventually outscored Idaho 45-21 in the second half to claim a 52-45 win over the Vandals in Sun Belt Conference lead in Mobile, Alabama. 

Idaho (3-6, 2-4) conceded a 24-7 halftime lead just a week after losing a 23-7 halftime lead last week in a 55-48 overtime loss at New Mexico State. 

How did this happen?

Idaho jumped out to a 24-0 lead thanks to the arm of Matt Linehan and the legs of Elijhaa Penny. Linehan completed 13 of 14 passes in the first half for 178 yards and two well-thrown touchdowns. The second half wasn't quite as fruitful for the third-year sophomore, who was 13 of 25 in the second half for a 139 yards and a deep-ball interception that cost Idaho an opportunity to take momentum back late in the first half. 

The downfall began at the beginning of the second half, when Xavier Johnson took the opening kickoff 100 yards to the house to cut Idaho's lead to 24-14. Idaho had dominated the game up to that point and all of a sudden it was only a meager 10-point lead. 

Full on disaster and panic began when Elijhaa Penny coughed up the ball and allowed Devon Earl to return it 57 yards to the house. 24-21 all of a sudden. 

Only a minute later Cody Clements was able to rush 6 yards into the end zone to put the Jaguars back on top. 

Here's the stat that will matter: South Alabama scored on each of their final six drives (not including taking a knee at the end), 38 points in total, including 17 points off of turnovers. 

South Alabama jumped out to a two-possession lead with 7:42 left in the game, prompting Linehan to lead Idaho on a two-minute drive to cut it back to within one possession.

And then Idaho's run defense demons struck again. Johnson gashed Idaho for a 61-yard touchdown run off tackle to put the Jaguars back on top by two scores. It took Idaho nearly four minutes to drive back down for Linehan to run it into the endzone to cut it down to 52-45. The Jaguars recovered the ensuing onside kick, sending Idaho back to Moscow with another demoralizing road loss. 

Idaho's once surprisingly optimistic bowl hopes are now all but dashed with Appalachian State and a trip to Auburn left on the schedule before the Vandals finish the season at home against Texas State. 

Notes:

Idaho once again played without leading receiver Dezmon Epps. Epps is indefinitely suspended for allegedly punching his girlfriend the night after the ULM game. Multiple outlets reported that Pullman police will not press charges, but his status remains unchanged for now. He did not travel with the team to Mobile, Alabama. 

In his stead, Callen Hightower once again led the receivers group with nine catches for 85 yards. The tight ends, former receivers Deon Watson and Trent Cowan, combined for 13 catches for 179 yards. Watson had seven of those grabs from 109 yards and two touchdowns, including a 17-yard strike from Linehan down the left side. 

Reuben Mwehla was the only other receiver to catch a patch. Center Steven Matlock caught one pass on a batted ball. 

Here is video courtesy of the Sun Belt Conference. 

 



Sean Kramer
Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.





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