LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Despite a commendable effort from the defense, an afternoon of missed opportunities cost the Idaho Vandals in their season finale at New Mexico State as the Aggies wound up winning 24-16 at Memorial Stadium.
“Today was very disappointing,” said coach Paul Petrino after reciting a list of dropped passes in the end zone along with low throws that couldn’t be advanced when caught.
The Aggies’ eight-point final lead lasted through a fourth quarter that featured interceptions, fumbles and a blocked field goal attempt. Despite having a handful of chances during the final 15 minutes, the Vandals weren’t able to capitalize.
Idaho’s final drive started after QuayShawne Buckley blocked a field goal attempt with 1:30 to play. Taylor Davis moved the Vandals to the Aggie 19 only to have his final two pass attempts fall incomplete.
“The defense came out and played their best game of the year,” Petrino said. “The offense didn’t. The offense didn’t play good enough.”
Idaho did have 459 total yards to NMSU’s 371 with 250 of the Vandals’ yards coming on passing yards by Davis. Najee Lovett was the top receiver for the day with eight catches for 82 yards. Defensively, Trey Williams had 11 stops and Bradley Njoku had 10.
The Aggies scored first on a 28-yard pass from Andrew McDonald to Austin Franklin with 6:27 to go in the first.
Idaho answered with a score to open the second quarter when Davis found Mike LaGrone for a 56-yard TD to cap a six-play 77-yard drive.
True freshman Austin Rehkow had the big plays that led to the Vandals’ next score. He hit the 25-yard field goal but, more importantly, he had a 40-yard gain on a fake punt that moved the ball from the Idaho 35 to the New Mexico State 25. His field goal with 7:34 left in the first half made it 10-7.
Quinton Bradley set up the Vandals’ next score when he stripped McDonald, who had dropped back to pass, then returned the fumble to the NMSU 11. The offense stalled and Idaho called on Rehkow again who was on target from 27 yards for a 13-7 Idaho lead with 4:48 left in the first half.
The Aggies responded with a 36-yard field goal attempt with :13 to go in the first half to cut Idaho’s lead to 13-10.
NMSU opened the second half with a nine-play, 73-yard scoring drive to take a 17-13 lead with 9:21 left in the third. McDonald went to Franklin, again, with a 7-yard pass for the TD.
The Vandals’ next drive stalled at the NMSU 9 and Rehkow was called on for his third field goal of the game – this one a 25-yarder. With 4:51 left in the third, Idaho trailed by 17-16.
The Aggies extended their lead to 24-16 as the fourth quarter unfolded when Adam Shapiro scored on a reverse from eight yards out with 14:12 left in the game.