Big plays made the big difference again as Appalachian State rolled to a 47-20 victory over Idaho at the Kibbie Dome on Saturday afternoon.
With those big plays, the Mountaineers (8-2, 5-1 Sun Belt) dominated the clock, particularly in the third quarter when they had the ball 11-of-15 minutes.
“We fought, we came back and had that great drive at the end of the half to kick a field goal and make it a one-possession game,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “I felt like we were right in it and then in the third quarter we never got the ball. They had those long possessions where they drove it and moved the ball the whole time.”
The Vandals (3-7, 2-5), down 21-13 at halftime, dropped their third straight.
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The Mountaineers scored first when they capped a nine-play, 76-yard drive with Taylor Lamb’s 15-yard pass to Barrett Burns. With 7:58 to go in the first, Appalachian State led 7-0.
Senior running back Elijhaa Penny scored first for the Vandals on a 15-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Matt Linehan on a drive that featured a succession of big plays — the first being junior Austin Rehkow’s punt on Idaho’s previous drive that pinned the Mountaineers at their own 1. Senior defensive lineman Ryan Edwards came up with a key third-down stop and ASU was forced to punt from its own 5.
Junior wide receiver Callen Hightower picked up 34 yards on first down on a pass from Linehan before a 3-yard rush by Penny led to the TD pass with 1:42 to play in the first quarter. Rehkow tied the game at 7-7.
Bobo Beathard put ASU back up by seven when he took the pitch from Lamb and scored from 17 yards out with 12:09 left in the first half.
Rehkow cut the gap to 14-10 with a 22-yard field goal with 6:13 to play in the second quarter. His kick, his 18th of the season, capped a 14-play, 70-yard drive.
An Idaho penalty breathed new life into the Mountaineers’ next scoring drive, which was capped by a 1-yard score by Terrence Upshaw with 1:11 left in the first half. The PAT kick made it 21-10.
Rehkow’s second field goal, a 44-yarder with three seconds left in the first half, pulled the Vandals to within 21-13 and enabled him to break the single-season record for field goals made (20).
ASU came out strong in the second half and the added two more scores, while the Vandals couldn’t seem to find their rhythm offensively.
“The offense got the ball twice in the third quarter and we didn’t get a first down,” Petrino said. “We never touched the ball again and they controlled the quarter and that’s where it got out of hand.
“In the first half, our guys were fighting and we were right in it. And then the third hit and we just couldn’t get the ball and couldn’t stop the run. If you can’t stop the run, then you aren’t going to win and that’s the bottom line.”
Linehan connected on 64.5 percent of his passes (20-of-31) for 243 yards and two touchdowns — the 15-yarder to Penny and a 10-yarder to junior tight end Trent Cowan in the fourth quarter. Cowan led the receiving corps with seven catches for 76 yards. Penny had 53 yards on 16 carries.
Senior linebacker Broc Westlake led the defense with 12 tackles (eight solo and four assists) and freshman linebacker Kaden Elliss had nine (six and three).
The Vandals are at Auburn next Saturday before wrapping up the season Nov. 28 at home against Texas State.
Jalin Moore rushed for a freshman school-record 244 yards for Appalachian State, which finished with 401 yards rushing and outgained Idaho 511-299 in total offense.