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Idaho Football
Sports >  Idaho football

Idaho unable to corral Northern Arizona quarterback R.J. Martinez in 38-31 loss

UPDATED: Sat., Oct. 30, 2021

Northern Arizona quarterback RJ Martinez looks to pass during a 38-31 win over Idaho in Moscow on Oct. 30, 2021. Martinez threw for 238 yards and three touchdowns in the game.  (Courtesy/Idaho Athletics)
Northern Arizona quarterback RJ Martinez looks to pass during a 38-31 win over Idaho in Moscow on Oct. 30, 2021. Martinez threw for 238 yards and three touchdowns in the game. (Courtesy/Idaho Athletics)
By Peter Harriman For The Spokesman-Review

MOSCOW, Idaho – Idaho’s 38-31 loss to Northern Arizona turned on a spectacular one-handed catch.

With about 6 minutes to play in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 31, Coleman Owen got an arm free from the tight coverage of the Vandals’ Jeremiah Salaam and improbably brought in R.J. Martinez’ 21-yard pass at the 1-yard line. From there, Martinez ran for the winning touchdown.

This is how things have been for Idaho this year. It has been the victim of losses ranging from routs (71-21 to Eastern Washington) to heartbreaks, like the game against NAU.

Before Owen’s circus catch and Martinez’s winning TD run, the Vandals had seen a 21-17 first-half lead disappear. NAU’s Harrison Beemiller lined up as a blocking back on a midfield punt in the third quarter but took the snap and raced 50 yards through the surprised Vandals defense, breaking Arnell Walker’s tackle to score for a 24-21 lead.

NAU improved its lead to 31-21 less than 5 minutes later on Martinez’s 29-yard TD pass to Owen.

But the Vandals refused to fold. Idaho recovered in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Mike Beaudry to Terez Traynor and Logan Prescott’s 29-yard field goal with 6:46 left to knot the score at 31.

After Martinez’s final TD, the Vandals (2-6, 1-4) had stopped the Lumberjacks (4-4, 3-2) near midfield and were about to get the ball back with 1:31 to play.

Fortune appeared to favor the Vandals when punter D.J. Arnson was called down when he knelt at his 32-yard line to field a low snap.

Beaudry found Traynor with an 11-yard pass to the NAU 21. On the next play, Beaudry sought to loft a pass over safety Morgan Vest to Traynor.

Vest leaped high to make the interception at the 6-yard line, and NAU ran out the clock.

“I was standing there on the sideline thinking, ‘This was going to be a touchdown,’ ” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said.

Beaudry returned from a shoulder injury suffered late in a win against Portland State on Oct. 9. Against NAU, he completed 28 of 46 passes for 306 yards and a touchdown, but he was sacked twice and threw three interceptions.

Martinez completed 18 of 29 for 238 yards and three touchdowns.

Traynor had a big day, leading all receivers with 167 yards on 12 catches. Mekhi Stevenson was close behind with nine catches for 92 yards.

Owen led NAU with seven catches for 139 yards.

NAU’s Kevin Daniels was the game’s leading rusher with 177 yards, but he was held without a score.

Roshaun Johnson led Idaho with 57 yards and Logan Kendall added 31. Near the goal line, Kendall was unstoppable. The Vandals’ fullback dragged NAU’s defense with him into the end zone for first-half TD runs of 1 and 2 yards.

“That was a lot of fun in the moment,” Kendall said. “(But) at the end of the day we’ve got to do better.”

Petrino said the fake punt – which Idaho had worked on defending – the three interceptions and giving up 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground doomed the Vandals.

“Did we play good enough football to win?” he asked. “No. We gave up a couple of things you cannot give up. But they fought.”

After the game, UI linebacker Fa’Avae Fa’Avae and Kendall, both juniors, emphasized the responsibility they feel for sending Idaho’s seniors out as winners in their final home game against Southern Utah on Saturday.

The Vandals finish the season on the road the following two weeks at Montana State and Idaho State.

Petrino said he has a locker room full of players he is proud to take into those final games.

“I’m proud of my guys,” he said. “They fought and competed all the way to the end. … I love every one of them to death.”

Fa’Avae said he has no personal goals heading into the conclusion of the season.

His focus on team goals for his hard luck teammates, though, is relentless.

“Just win,” he said. “Win out.”

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