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Idaho Football

Idaho Vandals build early lead, hold off Louisiana Monroe 31-23

Idaho Vandals running back Aaron Duckworth (23) scores a touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe during a college football game on Saturday, October 28, 2017, at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
By Peter Harriman For The Spokesman-Review

Idaho went from doing no wrong against the University of Louisiana-Monroe to doing just enough right to slip by the Warhawks 31-23 and keep its bowl hopes alive.

The Warhawks trailed the Vandals 31-7 with 4:42 to go in the third quarter after Cade Coffey’s 38-yard field goal crawled over the crossbar when a ULM defender got a hand on the kick and flattened its trajectory. It was the final play in a run of good fortune for the Vandals that began with an interception touched by three linebackers, and included a 45-yard touchdown pass to Kaden Elliss, a linebacker playing as a receiver.

From the high point of Coffey’s field goal though, ULM in succession scored a pair of touchdowns and a field goal and found itself with second down on the Vandals three-yard line with 21 seconds to play. Idaho has been haunted this season by not being able to close out fourth quarters. The most painful example was Appalachian State coming back from a 20-point deficit to beat the Vandals 23-20.

But when the Warhawks were in a similar situation to deal Idaho more heartache, Caleb Evans threw an incomplete pass, then a false start backed up ULM to the eight-yard line. On third down Evans tried to find D’Marius Gillespie in the end zone, but Idaho cornerback Dorian Clark had him well covered and the pass was incomplete.

On fourth down, Evans was flushed and threw on the run to 6-4 receiver Brian Williams in the end zone. Idaho cornerback Lloyd Hightower gave up five inches to Williams but Hightower battled him as the ball was in the air, and Williams could not come down with the catch.

Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan took a knee after the change of possession to close out the contest.

“I am just so proud of our team. I can’t tell you how proud I am,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said afterwards.

“That was a beautiful team win today.”

Both quarterbacks threw for three touchdowns and a bunch of yardage. Evans completed 24 of 37 passes for 415 yards with an interception. Linehan was 28 of 42 for 360 yards.

Idaho travels to face the University of Troy Thursday, with a chance to improve its Sun Belt Conference mark to 3-2. With the win over ULM, Idaho also broke a three-game losing streak. Petrino pronounced that to be “real big.” Then he pounded a podium for emphasis. “They deserve it.”