Elijhaa Penny scored from 4 yards out with 1 minute, 2 seconds remaining, and Russell Siavii had a game-sealing interception to give Idaho a 38-31 victory over Texas State in a Sun Belt game Saturday in the Kibbie Dome.
“It’s awesome,” coach Paul Petrino said. “It’s awesome for our players. It’s awesome for our seniors. ... It’s just a great step forward for this program.”
Penny had 25 carries for 149 yards and two scores for the Vandals (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt), who took a 24-10 lead late in the first half. Tyler Jones threw for a TD and ran for one to tie the game at 24-24, then Matt Linehan found Deon Watson for their second scoring connection of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Rueben Mwehla muffed a Texas State punt with 9:30 left, and Jones hit Brandon Smith from 4 yards to cap a 17-yard drive.
Idaho (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt) held a 7-point lead in the fourth quarter, 31-24, and forced Texas State to punt from its own 30-yard line, but Rueben Mwehla could not catch the punt and Damani Alexcee recovered to give the Bobcats the ball at the Idaho 17. Four plays later Tyler Jones hit Brandon Smith for a touchdown to tie the game at 31-31.
Penny sparked the winning drive with a 21-yard run to the 50, and Linehan hit Watson for 37 yards three plays later to put the ball at the 2. After Linehan was stuffed for a 2-yard loss, Penny put the game away.
Watson had five catches for 124 yards, and Callen Hightower had nine for 128. Linehan finished 21-of-31 for 309 yards, and he added a first-half rushing TD.
Idaho won more games this season than in the previous three years combined, when they went 3-32. The Vandals haven’t won this many games since going 6-7 in 2010, a year after winning the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise.
“We got out of that funk to where we don’t get down and expect to lose. The team, they understand we can win games. Since we have that mentality now, I’m grateful,” said defensive end Quinton Bradley, who had four tackles and three quarterback hurries. “Being 4-8 as a senior, is progress. It’s hard to come from that. For us to trust in coach Petrino and trust his philosophy is good.”