After travel troubles put the Idaho Vandals into Alabama a few hours before game time, luck broke their way toward the end of their stay.
Austin Rehkow made four field goals, including the game-winner with 3 minutes, 1 second remaining, and Idaho held on to beat Troy 19-16 on Saturday when Jed Solomon put a game-tying, 32-yard attempt off the upright with 32 seconds remaining.
The Vandals’ charter plane out of Spokane was delayed 14 hours by mechanical issues, and instead of leaving Friday afternoon, they left at 3:30 a.m. Pacific Time for a game that kicked off 9 hours later. The team had enough time to eat breakfast and hold meetings at the hotel, then take an hour-long bus ride to Troy.
“I’m so proud of our players,” said coach Paul Petrino, who improved to 4-26 as Idaho’s head coach. “I’ve won Sugar Bowls, Cotton Bowls, huge games my whole life. I don’t know if any one was better than that. With everything our players went through the last 24 hours, for them to go out there and lay it on the line like that … give it everything they’ve got. It’s just a special day.”
Idaho won for the first time on the road since a 32-29 win at San Jose State on Nov. 5, 2011, which also was the last time it beat a conference foe other than New Mexico State.
The Vandals (2-4, 1-2 Sun Belt) held the Trojans (1-5, 0-2) scoreless in the first half and kept them out of the end zone until the fourth quarter. That’s with Idaho’s defense depleted to the point where wide receiver Dezmon Epps played defensive back in the Vandals’ nickel package on the final series.
Despite the lack of bodies and being outgained 383-330, the Vandals had four sacks and forced four turnovers that resulted in 10 points. Idaho turned a Quinton Bradley fumble recovery into a 4-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Jake Luton, and a Russell Siavii interception into Rehkow’s third field goal and a 16-3 advantage.
Troy responded with a Solomon 39-yard kick, then recovered an onside kick and scored on a 43-yard TD pass from backup Dallas Tidwell to Teddy Ruben. Solomon made another field goal from 34 to tie the game at 16-16 with 8:07 left, and Idaho capped a 14-play drive by sending out Rehkow for a 19-yard field goal instead of trying to convert fourth-and-1 at the Troy 2-yard line.
“Our defense had been playing, so well I took the three-point lead,” Petrino said. “I believe they’d stop them, and they did. I’m just so happy with our whole team. Everyone contributed — every player, every assistant coach. It’s a great day to be a Vandal.”
Rehkow also converted from 34, 31 and 40 yards, and missed wide left from 52. Matt Linehan was 15-of-31 passing for 180 yards. Epps had 10 catches for 131 yards, along with two tackles.