MONROE, La. – Austin Rehkow kicked the game-winning 27-yard field goal as time expired as Idaho beat the University of Louisiana-Monroe 34-31 in a Sun Belt Conference game.
"I've been playing football for eight years now, I've been waiting for one," Rehkow said. "To help the team win is just an awesome feeling."
Coach Paul Petrino pointed to all phases of the game in the victory – the four turnovers forced by the defense, Rehkow's four field goals, and key movement by the offense.
"It was a team win," he said. "We talked all week we had to get tougher. We had to believe.
"I couldn't be more proud of our assistant coaches. I couldn't be more proud of our players."
Rehkow, who already had kicked three field goals, was called on for the game winner after ULM tied the score at 31 with 2:28 to play. Matt Linehan marched the Vandals to the Warhawks' with a couple key passes around a 40-yard run by Aaron Duckworth. ULM tried twice to ice Rehkow but he was unfazed as he pushed the Vandals to 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the Sun Belt.
Rehkow capped the Vandals first drive with a 28-yard field goal with 9:01 to play in the first quarter. His kick for the 3-0 lead capped a 15-play, 64-yard drive that was highlighted by a 32-yard, third-down pickup by Denzal Brantley.
Kaden Elliss, with his third interception of the season, put a quick stop to ULM's first drive with an interception at the Warhawks' 18.
Again, though, the offense stalled and it was up to Rehkow, whose 34-yard field goal made it 6-0 with 6:56 left in the first.
Not to be outdone, Jayshawn Jordan grabbed his third interception of the season to end the Warhawks' next drive and give the ball back to the Vandals and the ULM 35.
Idaho went up 9-0 – again on Rehkow's leg. His 32-yard field goal with 2:36 left capped a drive that was marred by penalty – including an illegal motion call that nullified a touchdown pass from Matt Linehan to Deon Watson.
Idaho's defense scored the first touchdown when Qendarrion Barrett blocked a ULM punt and Kendrick Trotter scooped up the ball and scored on a 19-yard return. Rehkow's kick made it 16-0 with 1:18 left in the first. It was Idaho's first punt returned for a touchdown since 2011 when Daniel Micheletti returned one four yards at Virginia.
Aaron Duckworth had the run that set up the Vandals' first offensive touchdown of the game when he picked up 55 yards – the longest of the year by Idaho, to put the ball at the ULM 7. Duckworth pushed through from the two to score and Linehan found David Ungerer for the two-point conversion and the 24-7 lead with 10:59 to go in the first half.
ULM closed to within 24-21 with 1:25 left when, undaunted after a pass deep into Vandal territory was ruled incomplete, Garrett Smith and Xavier Brown hooked up on a 44-yard scoring play.
The Vandals final drive of the half stalled at the ULM 46 and the second quarter ended on a Rehkow punt to the Warhawks' 2.
ULM tied the game midway through the third on a 31-yard field goal by Craig Ford. For a moment, it looked as if the Vandals stopped the drive when Ed Hall intercepted Smith. But, Tony Lashley was called for targeting and the Warhawks had the ball on the Idaho 15. They scored three plays later for the 24-24 tie.
But, the Vandals responded when Linehan found Jordan Frysinger behind the defense for a 71-yard score. It was Idaho's longest pass play of the season and Frysinger's first score. Rehkow's PAT made it 31-24 with 5:46 to go in the third.
The Warhawks were on the march but Russell Siavii ended it with the Vandals third interception of the game to give the ball to Idaho at its own 3 with 11:54 to play in the game.